Hundreds of patients treated in field hospital of German aid organizations


Mission in Haiti completed: Successful aid for earthquake victims

Les Cayemitis. The medical team of the BRH Bundesverband Rettungshunde e.V., Fachbereich Humanitäre Hilfe and I.S.A.R. Germany treated more than 800 patients following the severe earthquake in Haiti. "The mission on Les Cayemites Island was a great success," said Henri Paletta, the team's medical director. “Our quick response enabled us to help provide assistance to people in need." The earthquake hit one of the poorest countries in the world. The large number of injured had completely overwhelmed the already ailing health care system.

The aid organizations were deployed in Haiti with a so-called Emergency Medical Team (EMT1). EMT 1 means that patients can be treated in a field-based emergency department with multiple medical specialties. The EMT has been certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2018. The EMT was made up of 35 members, including physicians, nurses, and paramedics. Also present were a construction consultant, a water treatment expert and logisticians.

Operations manager Michael Lesmeister pointed out the enormous logistical challenges for the team. "The crew had to stow their eleven tons of equipment on a ship in the intense heat to be able to transport it to Les Cayemitis Island. Since the ship could not dock at the island, the only option was to transport it by small boats." The eleven tons of equipment included medical supplies as well as tents, generators and a water treatment plant.

Medical help urgently needed

The German team's medics were confronted with wide-ranging injuries on the island – from broken arms and legs, to major open wounds and severe burns. The injuries had been sustained during the massive earthquake on August 14, 2021.

"The medical system in Haiti was completely overwhelmed by the mass casualty situation," reports medical team leader Henri Paletta. "The people on the island had also not received proper medical care for many years. In addition, there is a shortage of food and drinking water." The result of this was that many patients also needed to be treated for illnesses caused by bitter poverty and the bad hygienic conditions. These included in particular diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, skin diseases and various infections.

"Mother and child module" in use

Patients included over 200 children and over 90 pregnant women. Two women gave birth to their children in the German team's field hospital during the mission on the island of Les Cayemites. They were supervised by midwife Kay Saskia Beckmann, among others. "Conditions for pregnant women on the island are bad," Beckmann said. "People are really desperately poor and can barely afford medical care, if it's available at all." The importance of good medical care was demonstrated by the birth of the two children in the field hospital. "Since the babies were not in an optimal position during birth, our medical team were able to provide assistance quickly and help ensure that the two boys saw the light of day in good health," the midwife reports.

The new "Mother and Child Module" was also used for the first time in Haiti. This has special equipment to provide medical care to pregnant women, newborns and infants, such as obstetric equipment, special medicines for children and infant food. The module had been developed on the basis of experience from numerous disaster operations. In crisis situations like these, it had been shown time and again that no special medical treatment is offered to pregnant women, newborns and infants after disasters, with very few exceptions. The "Mother and Child" module can close this gap in care.

Help for self-help

The Haitian nurses working on the island were intensively involved in the work by the team. This ensured a great transfer of knowledge, ensuring that the people on the island will continue to benefit from the operation in the future. In addition, part of the German team's equipment was handed over to the island's small infirmary in order to provide better medical care for the inhabitants in the long term.

Parallel to the mission in Haiti, there were talks with the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti in Germany. It was agreed to advance further humanitarian projects in Haiti in the medium term. The education and training of rescue workers was also suggested.

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