Fire Accidents on the Rise in Haiti

by Savitha C Muppala on  April 8, 2010 at 5:04 PM General Health News
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Fire accidents have been on the rise in the camps and streets of Haiti, forcing victims to seek treatment for burns at a field hospital.
 Fire Accidents on the Rise in Haiti
Fire Accidents on the Rise in Haiti

Faced with an increasing demand for burns treatment, Medecins Sans Frontiers set up the unit after the January 12 earthquake in a special wing of its hospital in Delmas.

And the service, the only one in the country, is never empty, with all 19 beds constantly occupied.

"It's a new pathology that is direct result of the very precarious lives" experienced by the 1.3 million Haitians who have lost their homes and are now living outdoors in makeshift camps, Dr Remy Zilliox told AFP.

"They have been in tents for three months and are increasingly prone" to domestic accidents, the plastic surgeon said.

With progress slow in clearing debris from the streets of Haiti's overcrowded capital after the 7.0-magnitude quake and the increasing permanence of the homeless camps, the trend appears to be here to stay.

"All the families live in tents. There is a candle or an oil lamp that turns over, and it's one, two, three tents that go up in flames," Zilliox said, as he made the rounds of his patients.

"The women are cooking under difficult conditions, with boiling water, with oil. A kettle overturns, and that's what you get," he said, pointing to a disfigured woman seated on her hospital bed, whimpering in pain.

"You have a basin of hot water for bathing, which gives you those babies over there. Boiled," he said, showing half a dozen infants, their dark skin turned a rose color from burns.

"I have a patient, he was on a bike when an electric cable rolled into the road in front of him. Since his bike was metal, he took the current through his feet," he said.

In another corner of the tent, behind a curtain, was a man who picked up cable that he found lying in the road. Electrocuted, he had to have both arms amputated. To help him deal with trauma, a psychologist came to talk to him.

"Electric power lines are down all over the city, it doesn't matter where, it doesn't matter how. Children spot them "Mom, what's this?" Pshsst," the surgeon says, mimicking the sound.

With the collapse of much of the Haitian health system in the huge earthquake, the Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) hospital is here for the duration.

Installed in the stadium of a destroyed school, which itself has become a huge refugee camp, the hospital hasn't stopped growing.

Built out of inflatable structures, the 4,500 square meter facility has 200 beds and all the services of a modern hospital, including a blood bank, a radiology department, orthopedics and a psychiatric center.

"We're hoping to set up a hospital canteen which would provide some 1,200 meals a day," said project coordinator Anne Chateaulain.

But still, all this is supposed to be temporary. "One day the school will re-open," said Zilliox.

What comes next? "I'm not sure," he sighed. "An emergency mission and such precariousness is not supposed to last forever. Some day nations have to start taking charge and begin handling their own problems."

Source: AFP

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