As health crises mount in Texas and Louisiana following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Direct Relief International has sent additional medical aid to partners in the region. These latest shipments bring the total value of hurricane emergency aid in the Gulf States to more than $1.1 million.
In Texas and Louisiana, more than 20,000 evacuees remain in shelters, as debris clogs roads, homes have been destroyed, and infrastructure is being repaired. Interrupted water service and nonfunctioning sewer systems have caused health concerns, especially in Galveston and the greater Houston area. In Louisiana, almost 25,000 homes have been flooded, and Gov. Bobby Jindal reported last Wednesday in a letter to President Bush that the state’s infrastructure had sustained $1 billion in damage.
To help those affected by the hurricanes, Direct Relief has provided ongoing shipments—a total of 30 since August 29—of urgently needed medicines and supplies such as antibiotics, analgesics, chronic medications, wound-care supplies, and personal care products. For people living in a shelter, even shampoo and soap can bring comfort, and good hygiene helps prevent disease transmission.
“These are 24- to 48-hour shelters,” said Lori Hooks of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, “but people will be staying there for weeks.” Hooks reported that clinics and health centers are providing services at shelters and assessing damage to their own facilities, 12 of which were closed as of Friday. TACHC’s goal is to reinstate care at clinics as fast as possible; generators and mobile units are being brought in to help bring facilities back to operation.
In Galveston, a mobile unit clinic opening Monday will help take pressure off the crowded local hospital emergency room, though all pharmaceuticals will need to be replaced, and water, sewer, and power services are not up yet. The executive director of three clinic sites in Port Arthur—an East Texas town closed due to massive damage—has been allowed to tour her locations to assess damage this weekend.
“The biggest problems are standing water and no electricity,” said Hooks. “Mosquitoes are an issue, and it’s going to get really bad in the next few days as the weather heats up. People run out of medications when health centers are closed. And the longer people go without refrigeration, the more likely they are to eat spoiled food, which causes illness.”
Direct Relief also made a cash grant of $150,000 earlier this month to the National Association of Community Health Centers to help clinics buy emergency medicines to treat hurricane-affected populations. Health center needs range from medicines and supplies to funds to replace computer systems damaged by flooding.
At the start of hurricane season, Direct Relief positioned 18 hurricane preparedness packs throughout the Gulf Coast. These packs contain enough medical material for one site to treat 100 people for a 72-hour period.