Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Second stage of Haiti's medical emergency has begun

Instead of a rush of earthquake victims, now the medical aid workers in Haiti are experiencing a rush of respiratory and diarrhea diseases as well as malnutrition. The unsanitary conditions in the makeshift tent camps and the disorganized way food aid is reaching people is to blame for most of new wave of diseases.

From this Canadian Press article that we found at Google News, writer Frank Bajak tells us more.

The second stage of Haiti's medical emergency has begun, with diarrheal illnesses, acute respiratory infections and malnutrition beginning to claim lives by the dozen.

And while the half-million people jammed into germ-breeding makeshift camps have so far been spared a contagious-disease outbreak, health officials fear epidemics. They are rushing to vaccinate 530,000 children against measles, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

"It's still tough," said Chris Lewis, emergency health co-ordinator for Save the Children, which by Tuesday had treated 11,000 people at 14 mobile clinics in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane. "At the moment we're providing lifesaving services. What we'd like to do is to move to provide quality, longer-term care, but we're not there yet."

In a report issued Monday, the United Nations said the Haitian government estimates 212,000 people were killed and 300,000 injured in the quake. The number of deaths not directly caused by the quake is unclear; U.N. are only now beginning to survey the more than 200 international medical aid groups working out of 91 hospitals - most of them just collections of tents - to compile the data.

At Port-au-Prince's General Hospital, patients continue arriving with infections in wounds they can't keep clean because the street is their home. The number of amputees, estimated at 2,000 to 4,000 by Handicap International, keeps rising as people reach Port-au-Prince with untreated fractures.

Violence bred of food shortages and inadequate security is also producing casualties. Dr. Santiago Arraffat of Evansville, Ind., said he treats several gunshot wounds a day at General Hospital.

"People are just shooting each other," he said. "There are fights over food. People are so desperate."

Nearly a month after the quake, respiratory infections, malnutrition, diarrhea from waterborne diseases and a lack of appropriate food for young children may be the biggest killers, health workers say.

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