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Medical Needs Mount After Deadly Tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama

Twenty-six fatalities and devastating damage caused after storms swept through.



Tornadoes ripped through Rolling Fork, Mississippi, causing massive damage over the weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Governor's office)

Over the weekend, storms and tornadoes caused significant damage to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. On Friday night, a long-track tornado devastated parts of western Mississippi, destroying most of the town of Rolling Fork.

Twenty-five people are confirmed dead from that tornado alone. Throughout the weekend, additional tornadoes caused damage and death in other parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. One additional fatality has been confirmed in Alabama.

Video courtesy of Mississippi Emergency Management Agency

Tornadoes and Health Impacts

Health impacts commonly follow tornadoes and other devastating storms in the immediate rescue phase of the event and during the recovery phase. Immediately following a storm, in addition to acute injuries, people can escalate into medical crisis when their chronic conditions go unmanaged. Those without access to therapies to manage diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma can end up in already stressed emergency departments.

During the recovery phase, as people begin to clean up their communities, they may be at risk of injury without protective gear. Puncture wounds from exposed nails and sharp objects can put people at risk for diseases like tetanus. Power outages from infrastructure damage can have life-threatening impacts on people depending on medical devices, and health facilities without power may lose access to electronic health records and temperature-sensitive medications.

Direct Relief’s Response

Over the weekend, Direct Relief was in contact with the Mississippi and Alabama Primary Care Associations, the Mississippi and Alabama Free Clinic Associations, and National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.) Direct Relief sent an emergency alert to all community health centers, as well as public health and emergency management partners in Mississippi and Alabama.

Direct Relief expects to dispatch medical shipments to several recipients over the coming days. One of Direct Relief’s partner health centers located in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, Delta Health Center, has reportedly lost its facility during the tornado and is currently operating a temporary clinic in the parking lot of the health center and an additional location at a local church.

“The purpose of the medical clinics is to provide urgent care to people in need, particularly those in need of insulin, blood pressure medications, tetanus shots and other medications in compliance with the state board of pharmacy,” according to the health center’s website. “Delta Health Center will waive all co-pay fees, accepts most insurances, and treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. Patients should expect no out-of-pocket expenses.”

The Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou was the first rural community health center in the United States, established by Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Dr. Count Gibson. The health center serves six counties with now operates 18 community and school-based locations, including in Rolling Fork, which was impacted by the storms.

Direct Relief will continue to monitor the situation and respond as requested.

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