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Bangalore Extends Its Helping Hands
Bangalore - Earthquake Update Appeal No. 5  (7th Feb 2001)

St. John's Gujarat Earthquake Relief Team Returns!
also read: St.John's Emergency Relief Teams

St. John's Medical Team operated around the clock and lost count of all the plasters and dressing they completed during the stay. They were so conscientious that their services were extended till today!
As always, St. John's has responded to the Gujarat Earthquake readily as part of what is well known as the "Bangalore Response" to disasters in the Indian Peninsula. Three members of the St. John's Team were requested for by the Government of Karnataka to join the Government Hospitals in the effected areas. All three, Drs. Sanjay Joseph (Orthopedician), John Mariananad (Anesthesiologist) and Bijay Agarwal (Surgery) have completed a hectic ten days in Patan General Hospital. They operated around the clock and lost count of all the plasters and dressing they completed during the stay. They were so conscientious that their services were extended till today! All emergency surgeries have been completed as of Sunday and now only elective procedures are pending. The Karnataka team lost only one patient in spite of their busy schedule, which tells of their affectivity in the field. The main team of the remaining 10 medical personnel from St. John's flew to Ahmedabad on the 29th February. They carried over 1.6 ton of WHO essential medical drugs. They proceeded to the Janpath Citizen's Initiative control room at the JanVikas offices at Ahmedabad and then into the field. The team was totally independent with tents, sleeping bags and rucksacks as shelter. Food and water for 48-72 hours was also carried in for the team's survival till base of established. The team made its journey by road to Radhanpur, Rapar, Neelpar and finally Bhachau. They held roadside clinics and also surveyed interior areas to identify areas not cared for by anyone. Finally at Bhachau they camped along side the Indian Army Field Hospital and manned the Army camp Outpatient, assisted with nursing and medical care of Inpatients and with surgery and anesthesia for procedures. Communication was set up once our own Koramangala 70-year-old resident Mr.Ramachandra, a HAM enthusiast, joined the team after driving the entire distance from Bangalore.

The type of medical relief extended and required:

The work predominately included trauma related orthopedic problems like fractures, limb and pelvic which needed conservative and operative procedures. Wounds needed dressings and infections had become common. Failure of the provision of temporary shelters has exposed the displaced population especially women and children to the cold and wind causing acute Respiratory illnesses like Pneumonias. Sanitation and unprotected water supply are problems, which in turn has lead to diarrhea in a few cases however this is predicted to rise with the failure of protection of drinking water sources once the packet water supply is stopped. Psychosocial problems are to be expected in the future with people loosing family members as well as everything they have ever owned. As a consequence of this trauma, physical and mental, immediate problems of shock, tension, anxiety, panic, relief and disorientation may be seen. This in turn will lead to a disabling post disaster grief, apathy, unresponsiveness, guilt and the post trauma stress disorder. Dr. Kishore Kumar and Sekar are from NIMHANS and are expected to move in at the earliest to tackle these emergency problems by training local personnel in dealing with such situations. Malnutrition and other specific nutritional deficiencies may be the future especially for women and children among the displaced population if food supplies are not continued on a long-term basis.

Future Medical Needs for displaced population in Gujarat:

Trauma related: Orthopedic and surgical injuries, Infections and wounds, revision surgeries nailing, plates, fixators; rehabilitation, disability limitation physiotherapy, prosthetics.

Exposure related (shelter and clothes): Acute Respiratory Infections, Infections Sanitation/drinking water related: Diarrhea, dysentery, and infections Psychosocial consequences: Grief, Depression, guilt, unresponsiveness, reactions Food supplies: Malnutrition, Vitamin and Mineral (eg. Iron) deficiencies Gender and Child Issues: Health needs, routine and specific

Duration of a disaster:

The duration of a disaster is longer than we think. Rehabilitation may be needed up to a period of three years. There is a lot to do! In the past week there have been approximately 6000 doctors in the Kutch area alone and volunteers are becoming a burden to an already stretched infrastructure. The need today is not to blindly go in now but to wait till the specific need arises. Medical Supplies are in plenty with excellent neighbors, roads and airport facilities. This too has become a burden with people painstakingly sitting down to invent all supplies. We may have a situation where the mass of volunteers and supplies has actually been detrimental to the progress of disaster relief from rescue to the intermediate phase of temporary shelters, provision of food and drinking water, sanitation apart from medical team support.

Coordination with other groups:

The St John's team will be working in coordination with the Disaster Relief and Training Cell at St. John's Bangalore and the Emergency Disaster Relief Team of Oxfam India Society headed by Dr. Unnikrishnan. It is Dr. Unnikrishnan who will liaise with identified grass root based agencies / NGOs in the area presently chosen are Janpath Citizen's Initiative. The first team was sponsored by Care Today (India Today family).

Future plans:

The Disaster Relief and Training Cell has on stand by two more teams ready for departure based on actual field needs. Since the assessment team and the coordinator reported the over burdening of infrastructure, it was decided not to send in the additional teams which were to overlap team one. Today the final team member would have returned 9 days after the disaster. A job well done and a contented group of young doctors that were able to help people in need!