Almost two weeks after the quake, unacceptable situation remains in Guadalupe, Peru
"Almost two weeks after the earthquake in Peru, the situation of the victims is no longer mentioned in the international media while, on the ground, several aid organisations have started to leave the area. However, MSF teams continue to see populations in desperate need of assistance, and who have been forgotten." Luis Encinas, MSF's Emergency Coordinator.
Pisco, 27th August 2007 – "I was totally shocked by what I saw in the town of Guadalupe, it felt like a day after the earthquake. In the town centre, 95% of the houses have been destroyed or severely damaged, and people are living in the streets in terribly unhygienic conditions… No aid has come to Guadalupe, even though it is on the Pan-American, the main road of the country," says Luis Encinas, MSF's Emergency Coordinator, who led the MSF team who went Saturday to Guadalupe, a town of 12,000 inhabitants located 100 km southeast of Pisco in the suburbs of Ica city.
Ica was badly affected but the situation is slowly improving and hospitals have the capacity to respond to the main medical needs. However, the situation in Guadalupe is extremely precarious. Around 10,200 people have been affected by the 8.0-magnitude quake that hit on 15th August. The only health centre has seen a 250% increase in the number of consultations. MSF doctors immediately offered medical care to patients in need, donated drugs, medical equipment, and blankets.
"We visited some houses and we met this woman who was squashed under a wall with her child in her arms when her house collapsed," tells Dr Loreto Barcelo, MSF'S Medical Head. "The woman broke her foot and the little girl suffered multiple pelvis fractures. However, the child was only given a plaster and then discharged within 48 hours. The mother, who needed orthopaedic surgery, was probably not even treated because the health staff was overwhelmed." Today, while the rest of the family spends nights in the street fearing another earthquake, both are bedridden, helpless, in the only part of the house left standing.
This example shows also the terrible consequences of the earthquake on the mental health of people. "After more than ten days without receiving aid, sometimes living with up to 40 people in one tent, these people feel abandoned, and not recognized as victims of the earthquake," says Zohra Abaakouk, who is responsible for the MSF mental health programme. "But they try to organise themselves as best they can, despite pains, sleeping troubles, fears or anxiety..." To alleviate the suffering of these people and to prevent a worsening of their mental state, a team of MSF psychologists immediately started providing psychosocial support. They hold psycho-educative group sessions, called 'charlas', and individual consultations if needed.
In the makeshifts shelters made of cardboard and bed sheets in front of their destroyed houses, families are living in the cold and unhygienic conditions. They have no latrines, no drinking water and no real space to wash themselves. MSF will develop 'wellbeing spaces', with access to water, bathing facilities and latrines, so that the people will be able to live in acceptable conditions. In addition, distribution of blankets and other basic relief items will start this week.
Luis Encinas, MSF's Emergency Coordinator, expresses his concern: "Almost two weeks after the earthquake in Peru, the situation of the victims is hardly mentioned in the international media and, on the ground, several aid organisations are starting to leave the area. However, the needs remain huge in the region and MSF teams continue to see populations in desperate need of assistance, and who have been forgotten. This situation is unacceptable. Action is urgently needed to prevent these people from living in such unacceptable conditions."
In Peru, 25 MSF staff, both Peruvian and international, are working together to provide assistance to the people affected by the earthquake. The MSF activities are focusing on mental health, medical care, distribution of relief items and water-and-sanitation. Teams are working in Pisco, in more remote affected areas to the east, and since recently, in Guadalupe (south-east).