Fourteen days after Tropical Storm Gustav made landfall, followed by Tropical Storm Hanna and then Hurricane Ike last week, many areas are still inaccessible in devastated Haiti.
Since arriving in the northern Haitian city of Gonaïves on September 4, one of the worst affected areas in the country, MSF teams have carried out 641 medical consultations and performed 25 surgical procedures.
Half of the people screened so far by MSF have suffered at least minor injuries. The remaining patients are suffering from diarrhoea (and related dehydration), respiratory diseases, infections and skin problems linked to polluted water, with such cases on the increase. While most of the patients are adults, an increasing number are children.
With floodwaters now receding slightly, people are beginning to return to Gonaïves, adding additional stress on already strained health and sanitation facilities. Temporary health clinics in some schools are lacking basic materials and equipment. MSF teams have donated medical materials and plans are underway to open a field hospital in Gonaïves.
Currently, MSF has five medical personnel (two doctors and three nurses) and six logistical staff (three general logisticians and three water and sanitation specialists) in Gonaïves.
Clean water a priority
At the Rabouteau Health Center in Gonaïves, MSF has carried out over 150 consultations as of yesterday. One third of the people examined were children under five years of age. Two water bladders were also set up at the center in order to provide clean drinking water, which is in very short supply in the city.
Limited access to other devastated areas
Access to other hurricane-affected areas outside of Gonaïves is extremely difficult; many roads and airstrips are flooded, bridges are destroyed, and there is a general lack of fuel, which is reducing, if not preventing, relief assistance — including clean water, food, or basic medical needs — from reaching many parts of the country.
MSF is doing its best to access these areas to provide adequate care to affected populations and to monitor the health situation. On Monday night, MSF sent an additional five vehicles and one truck to Gonaïves by boat. In the coming days, a team of four medical personnel and two logisticians will attempt to start mobile clinics and surveillance activities in the northwest area between Gonaïves and Port-de-Paix (including Terre Neuve, Anse Rouge, and Gros Morne) which has an overall estimated population of close to one million people. An additional 13.2 tons of medical and logistical materials (medical kits, pumps, tents, mosquito nets, water treatment kits, water tanks, generators, blankets) are on the way from Europe and from Panama.
Existing MSF activities in Port-au-Prince are continuing. The organization provides medical and surgical care at La Trinité Trauma Center, emergency obstetrical care in Jude Anne Hospital, and emergency health-care services and essential health services through mobile clinics in the Martissant slum.