After arriving in Les Cayes, one of the regions worst hit by the earthquake in southwest Haiti, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency rehabilitation manager, Virginie Duclos, has made a preliminary assessment of rehabilitation needs. She tells us more about the current situation:
Q: What is the situation like in Les Cayes?
Needs are immense. Hospitals and doctors are finding it hard to cope. More than 100 new patients arrive in Les Cayes every day, one week after the earthquake. Some of them are from remote rural areas and they’ve taken a long time to get to hospital. Some people can’t afford the journey or they’re anxious about staying in hospital, and this causes a delay, which means many patients arrive with infections and additional complications requiring amputations that could have been avoided. They’re in a terrible state.
Q: What do medical teams need?
Medical teams in the field lack staff and equipment. The rehabilitation center (pictured) was damaged by the earthquake. The building is still standing but it can’t be used because it might collapse at any moment and there are still aftershocks.
The rehabilitation team is working on the pavement outside. It had a small stock of mobility aids, such as walking sticks and crutches, but they’ve handed them all out now and they’ve run out of equipment.
Q: What’s the risk of developing a disability under these circumstances?
If people don’t get the care they need, they suffer a lot, which means they take longer to recover. Muscles stiffen quickly if a limb isn’t moved or used. It can take a long time to get them working again, and some people never get the use of their limbs back. When someone is bedridden for long periods it can cause muscle and circulation problems and prevent them getting better. It can take as little as two days for these problems to arise, and this may result in long-term disabilities.
People who already had a disability before the earthquake are more likely to be killed or injured because it’s harder for them to move or escape a building in time.
People with disabilities who do manage to get out in time may leave their mobility aid behind. If someone carried them out of the house as it was collapsing, for example, they might have left their wheelchair or crutches inside, and it’s now under the rubble.
Q: How much do we know about our emergency response at the moment?
There were no rehabilitation services at all in the hospitals I visited, so our priority now is to set them up. In the short term, this means supplying rehabilitation equipment, hiring staff but most of all, providing training. Training is the most important of the three. We aim to ensure hospitals are able to continue offering services long after our emergency teams have left.
Q: Why is action needed now?
A lot of people have been affected. If we don’t do something about it now, many of them risk developing permanent disabilities.