Long-Term Health Problems Facing Haiti After Earthquake
While the desperate people of Haiti await assistance, multi-national relief efforts must overcome a mind-boggling logistical nightmare caused by demolished transportation and communications systems.
Buildings and infrastructure in Port-au-Prince suffered extensive damage and basic services like water and electricity are almost non-existent. One of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, Haiti already had severely limited resources before the quake caused large-scale damage to existing infrastructure, hospitals, and other health facilities. Caring for the victims of the quake is an overwhelming task, one that will continue into the foreseeable future.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with local authorities, United Nations agencies, and humanitarian partners to respond to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti earlier this week. The United Nations (UN) issued an urgent call to the international community to assist and is coordinating an emergency response team for humanitarian relief efforts.
Health issues of immediate concern include search and rescue of trapped survivors; treatment of injuries such as lacerations, broken and fractured bones, burns, and crush injuries; respiratory problems due to inhalation of dust and building materials; treatment for and prevention of infection; distribution of clean water and food; proper sanitation; care and feeding of infants and young children; and management of a growing number of deceased. As of this writing, The Red Cross estimates is estimating that 45,000 – 50,000 have died in the earthquake.
In the weeks to come, control of communicable diseases will become crucial, and exacerbations of other health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory illness will need to be addressed, along with emotional and mental health issues. Symptoms of anxiety and depression may not appear for weeks or even months after an earthquake, and can affect people of any age.
In the long-term, Haiti faces outbreaks of diarrheal diseases such as e. coli and cholera due to lack of clean drinking water and health-care options, especially dangerous to infants and young children.
The true horror of the situation, and the lasting impact on health, will play itself out over years, not weeks or months. Now is the time for the people of the world to unite and make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering, but this is not going to be one of those one-time fix it and forget it events. The extended consequences of this disaster are unimaginable.
If you would like to donate to the people of Haiti, please be aware that the scam artists have wasted no time in jumping on the bandwagon. Make sure that your contributions go to well-established organizations with experience in dealing with the aftermath natural disasters. For further information, please read: How to Help Haiti.
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HAITI INFORMATION AND ACTIONS
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