Haiti earthquake crisis – 19 January 2010

MSF's teams in Port au Prince are still under great pressure, searching for more facilities to carry out urgent surgery and trying to get in new medical supplies. An estimated 3,000 people have had primary care and around 400 have received surgery in the Haitian capital. The most common serious injuries are open fractures, head injuries and infected wounds that need amputation. At the same time, MSF has been travelling to areas outside of the city and is about to extend the medical care to the people there.

Marie-Christine FERIR, one of MSF's Emergency Coordinators, says that the overall position is still very difficult and injured people in the city are waiting too long for help. "The hospitals that remain standing are full. Although there is a slight increase in surgical capacity in Port au Prince with MSF expanding its capacity and other organisations arriving, it is still far from enough to absorb the number of patients in desperate need of surgery. We are having to focus on people with very serious injuries, where surgical interventions can save lives."

The parts of the inflatable hospital with two operating theatres were arrived yesterday in Port au Prince. Some arrived there on Sunday (17 Jan) at the airport and the rest have been coming overland from the Domican Republic. A field has been identified as a location for the hospital and work has started yesterday to erect it for use.

Other MSF teams have been to areas outside of the city and have found very substantial damage and numbers of injured people. In Jacmel, on the southern coast very near to the epicentre of the earthquake, around 60% of the buildings were destroyed. The hospital had partially collapsed but the operating theatre is still usable. MSF will be starting work there as soon as possible, although all of the transportation has to be done by helicopter because the roads are blocked. In Saint-Marc, some 40 km north along the coast, the damage is not so great but large numbers of people from Port au Prince have gathered and MSF expects to set up another medical centre there. Leogane, west of the capital and again seriously damaged, is another location where MSF has opened a new treatment facility.

The overall position on medical supplies is causing concern. Large quantities have been used up over the last 6 days and there are real difficulties in replacing them. Flights into Port au Prince are still very restricted. A cargo plane that was due to arrive on Sunday (17 Jan) with stocks was diverted to the Dominican Republic and the roads from there are slow and congested.

The position on staffing has been improving though. Well over 130 new international staff have been able to get into the country since the quake. They are reinforcing the efforts made by the existing teams in the first few days, particularly by the Haitian staff who often came to work despite the fact that many of them have had their own lives disrupted and sometimes lost family members. MSF is still trying to contact some of our colleagues and has not been able to account for all of them. We know that some of them did not survive last week's events.