(Written by Rocío Pozzi-Feinberg School of Medicine)
- Total of lives saved by international search-and-rescue teams is over 121 people.
- Priorities remain medical supplies, water and sanitation, tents, blankets, food and fuel and transport equipment.
- There is an increased risk of death as open wounds and fractures go untreated.
- Despite logistical and security constraints, the affected population is receiving an increasing number of relief supplies, including medical assistance, food, water and shelter.
- Aid has started reaching people in areas west of Carrefour and in Jacmel.
- Communicable diseases in Haiti and along the border remains stable as per WHO.
- Emergency relief distributions are continuing on a daily basis, including food, water purification tablets, medical supplies and shelter material.
- Help has moved beyond Port-au-Prince to other affected areas such as Jacmel, Carrefour and Legouane. Current basic needs are currently not fully being met. A formal distribution system is not yet in place.
- Fuel shortages that compromised the ability of health care structures to provide care. In response to dwindling fuel resources, WFP brought fuel from the Dominican Republic.
- Water is being distributed by trucks. The water system in Port-au-Prince is partially functional, although the entire system has not yet been evaluated.
- Banking activities expected to be restored to normal on Jan 21.
- The Ministry of Health (MOH) has created a National Health Commission to coordinate the local and international response.
- MOH has defined 3 levels of healthcare: mobile health centres, fixed health centres (minor health problems), and hospitals with surgical capacities. The Health Cluster is working to support these Government priorities.
- Number of reported communicable diseases in Haiti and along the border with Dominican Republic remains stable – as per epidemiological reports.
- Inter-agency teams from the Health Cluster are assessing the capacity of existing hospitals to identify priorities and needs.
o Prior to the earthquake, there were 371 health posts, 217 health centres and 49 hospitals nationwide in Haiti, including 11 hospitals in Port-au-Prince.
o Eight hospitals and health-care facilities in and around Port-au-Prince are damaged.
o Structures that are currently providing care are struggling to meet increased numbers of patients requiring mostly trauma related care.
- The main priorities identified by the Health Cluster are:
o trauma care (treatment of wounds and injuries);
o obstetrics care
o communicable diseases such as tetanus- to minimize potential risks from untreated open wounds.
- Health Background info:
o With natural disaster situations, untreated trauma wounds and infection of wounds are major health concerns that need priority attention.
o Adequate medical and water sanitation systems are key to preventing hygiene and food borne disease, and in particular prevention of diarrhea outbreaks and other gastrointestinal illnesses such as typhoid is key in early stages of disaster response.
o Population displacement and overcrowding can increase the risk of transmission of communicable diseases.
- Management of Dead Bodies
o As per WHO, 70,000 bodies have been buried; 200,000 people are dead, and most corpses have been collected by MINUSTAH, the Red Cross and the Haitian authorities.
o The national morgue, located at Haiti’s University Hospital (HUEH), is full and has no electricity so dead bodies have been left outside of the morgue.
o The Minister of Interior has started spraying caustic soda over bodies and buildings where bodies have still not been recovered. UNDP (funding), WFP (transport) and IOM (procurement) have agreed on a joint plan to assist the Government in these efforts.
o Two ICRC forensic experts have arrived in Port-au-Prince to advise the Haitian authorities on the proper collection of information on the dead and on the dignified handling of bodies, and distribute body bags, body tags, gloves, masks and other essential items to local mortuaries.
o Background information of management of the dead:
§ Risk to the public and relief workers:
- Dead bodies are not likely to cause epidemics in earthquakes such as Haiti’s. In natural disasters initial casualties stem from trauma, drowning or fire rather than from conditions with epidemic potential such as cholera, typhoid, malaria.
§ Handling dead with dignity is essential:
- Collection of dead bodies is urgent but only after or in conjunction with meeting the needs of survivors to minimize further deaths.
- Rapid mass burials – where bodies are placed without identifying information are not indicated. They traumatize families and communities and make it harder to pursue identification and potentially thwart future forensic investigations.
- Survivors may be better able to begin their healing journey if they can identify the remains of their loved ones, hence all efforts to identify bodies should be made.
o 40 agencies are registered as Health Cluster with the MOH in attendance. Two major foci of attention have been identified:
§ Work with existing field hospitals, fixed health facilities where foreign agencies are working as well as the assessment of hospitals to evaluate their functionality.
§ Carry out public health assessments in the 280 sites where population has gathered spontaneously.
Report compiled from reports from OCHA, WHO, and ICRC. Background information on today’s situational report may be found at: