After assessing quake-damaged cities in Sichuan Province and meeting with top-level medical officers and government officials, Direct Relief staff members have been asked to address specific needs to help support relief efforts after the 8.0-magnitude earthquake.
With a reported 361,822 injured and an estimated 15 million relocated (UN OCHA), basic primary care will be crucial for this vulnerable population. Direct Relief is organizing assistance to help meet the immediate need for basic health care and to assist with the anticipated significant long-term need for prosthetic and orthotic care.
Large numbers of displaced people now living in tents or temporary shelter are at increased risk for a variety of health problems, including upper respiratory infections and skin problems.
Chinese health authorities submitted detailed requests to Direct Relief staff members Brett Williams, Direct Relief’s Emergency Response Coordinator, and John Schurrer, who have been conducting assessments in the quake-stricken region. Schurrer, who is fluent in Mandarin, lived in Chengdu while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.
The two staff members have received a gracious welcome from top medical officers and government officials, from the Chinese Red Cross and Sichuan University Hospital, among others. “We have been warmly received by these groups and have been very impressed with their work under such enormous pressure,” Williams said, reporting by phone from Nainzhu.
According to Williams, only four of the 40 hospitals in the earthquake-stricken region are operational. Fifteen of those hospitals have been damaged beyond repair.
Based on Direct Relief’s experience with the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and other past seismic events, the long-term need for rehabilitative services, including prosthetic and orthotic devices, are anticipated to be significant. In addition to addressing short-term basic medical needs, Direct Relief is arranging partnerships to assist with long-term care for people who experienced spinal cord injuries, amputations, and other blunt-trauma injuries common during earthquakes.