Disease Fear in Haiti as Doctors Plead for Essential Supplies

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Disease Fear in Haiti as Doctors Plead for Essential Supplies


Byline: Martin Bentham in Port-au-Prince

MEDICAL workers in Haiti have warned they might have to stop operating on quake victims because they are running out of basic supplies.

Staff at field hospitals say the risk of disease is growing and they criticised the organisation of the medical supply effort. Cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea are among the illnesses they fear could spread.

Two weeks after Port-au-Prince was devastated by the magnitude-seven tremor, there is a severe shortage of items including oxygen, alcohol for sterilisation, sterile gowns and drapes to cover operating tables, portable lavatories and washing facilities.

Doctors from British charity Merlin yesterday had to search Port-au-Prince frantically for equipment after they failed to find any at the World Health Organisation warehouse.

Merlin doctor Amjid Mohammad, an A&E consultant from West Yorkshire, said: "Surgery is going to stop if we don't get these supplies. It is chaos. We need sterile gowns and drapes in particular. WHO has a massive warehouse but it doesn't have the kit that is needed at this time."

Diane Smith, of the Americas Missionary Group, said infections were starting to rise at a unit for 300 patients on a football field because of a lack of basic sanitation: "The field is going to be a nightmare of disease and the problems are already starting.

"We need portable toilets and washing stations but there is nothing here. It's not the United Nations, it' s the Useless Nations."

Joe Hall, from US Aid, said one of its main clinics was affected. "We are trying to get some proper organisation but with so many agencies here it's a problem." Another complaint is that too much of what has been sent is for dealing with longer-term health problems, rather than the immediate needs of injured people. …

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