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Diseases: the next concern for Haiti

Published:Friday | January 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Nadisha Hunter, Gleaner Writer

There are growing concerns about the possibility of the outbreak of several diseases in Haiti in the wake of Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Bodies in the streets stink and are unattended to, little if any clean water, and limited access to sanitation facilities have United Nations' (UN) health officials worried about the possibility of deadly infectious diseases.

The UN says with the absence of health facilities, which were destroyed in the disaster, and few doctors on duty, there are countless critical medical needs for the millions of Haitians affected by the widespread destruction.

Yesterday, director of the Outreach Division in the Department of Public Information at UN Secretariat Eric Falt, told The Gleaner that the health-related issues now take precedence in the humanitarian minds.

"Health-related issues are very significant in situations like this. There are hundreds or thousands of bodies on the streets, persons badly injured and there is no help, as the health sector is severely affected," Falt said.

"Clean water is also a crucial issue at this time, so it calls for serious concerns," he added.

The director said he was unable to divulge much information on the health problems as UN officials were still in the process of trying to establish the impact that the quake had on different sectors.

Sadness, regret

In the meantime, Minister of Health Rudyard Spencer has expressed great sadness and regret at the devastation in Haiti and said the ministry would be assisting.

"Our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Haiti. It is truly a disaster and as more information unfolds, the situation becomes more and more disheartening. I appeal to all Jamaicans to assist the people of Haiti in any way they can," the minister said in a press release.

The ministry's director of emergency disaster management and special services, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse, was part of a senior Jamaican delegation which travelled to Haiti for fact-finding and initial assessment with a view to making recommendations for medical and health care.

In addition, a medical and health team is expected to travel to the country today for seven days. The team includes doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, a public-health team of doctors, public-health nurses and public-health inspectors.

President of the Medical Association of Jamaica, Dr Winston De La Haye, has committed to providing medical assistance to the people of Haiti.