Emergency Medical Aid En Route to Colombia Following Flooding, Landslide


Emergency aid for Peru is staged and shipped from Direct Relief's Goleta warehouse on Mar. 21. (Photo by Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)
Emergency aid for Peru is staged and shipped from Direct Relief's Goleta warehouse on Mar. 21. (Photo by Bryn Blanks/Direct Relief)

The first of several shipments bound for Colombia’s devastated southwestern Putumayo region is expected to arrive in the country Wednesday.

The shipment contains critical supplies like antibiotics, IV solutions, and essential medicines to manage chronic health conditions.

The Colombian military has confirmed that over 260 people are dead and more than 100 are missing after torrential rains on Friday caused a mudslide that decimated the town of Mocoa in southwestern Colombia.

Rescue efforts are ongoing and President Juan Manuel Santos has declared a state of emergency.

Access to the region remains compromised, with roads and bridges washed out from the deluge. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in the aftermath, and those requiring medical attention face limited access to care since regional health centers have been damaged. The supply lines for basic necessities have been severed.

Direct Relief’s Response

Hours after flood waters swept through the town, Direct Relief began to coordinate emergency shipment details with the national and regional Ministries of Health (MOH), la Orden de Malta Colombiana, and local emergency response partner, Patrulla Aerea Civil Colombiana (PAC).

Comprised of highly skilled doctors, surgeons and pilots, PAC is an official part of Colombia’s national emergency response program. Members of PAC are currently responding to the flood disaster in Peru and have been requested to return to Colombia to assist with medical triage and onsite surgical services in Mocoa. Direct Relief has worked with PAC during previous emergencies, including the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador in 2016 and during Peru’s ongoing flooding.

After serious flooding, water sources become compromised, which can lead to a host of health issues. Cholera and other diseases related to poor sanitation can become a serious public health concern in the aftermath of such disasters. People living in the area also face a host of neglected tropical diseases, including trachoma, soil-transmitted pathogens, and various bacterial and parasitic infections. Direct Relief is sending antibiotics, antivirals, rehydration supplies and hygiene kits.

Direct Relief’s in-country partners have also reported an outbreak of varicella, a virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, and can be deadly to elderly people and those with compromised immune systems. Included in the most recent shipment are doses of Acyclovir, an antiviral donated by Teva. The drug reduces the ability of the virus to replicate, limiting disease transmission and allowing the body to heal and recover.

Direct Relief will be shipping additional emergency supplies to PAC in the coming days.  The organization has also made its entire inventory available to the country’s ministry of health.

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