Kearsarge Medics Begin Health Assessments in Haiti
American Forces Press Service
MORASE, Haiti, Sep. 19, 2008 The amphibious ship USS Kearsarge expanded its assistance to disaster relief operations in Haiti on Sept. 17, dispatching medical teams to conduct health assessments of Haitian communities suffering in the aftermath of tropical storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Hurricane Ike.
Medics from USS Kearsarge examine residents of Trois Ponts, Haiti, during a health assessment survey Sept. 18, 2008, to determine future relief operations. Kearsarge is providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief aid to Haiti after three tropical storms and a hurricane devastated the region. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Danals
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Kearsarge medical teams were the first to arrive in the small village of Morase, quickly setting up operations to determine what services the population needed most. With malnutrition topping the list of concerns, the medical teams conducted health assessments of residents, especially children.
The Kearsarge medical teams, which include partner-nation military medical personnel, are working in concert with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other multinational relief groups.
The medical personnel join Kearsarge's nearly two-week support to the relief efforts. Since Sept. 8, helicopters and landing craft from Kearsarge have delivered more than 980 metric tons of relief supplies and 26,000 gallons of water to devastated communities isolated by damaged roads and bridges.
"Today is a big day, because we are finally 'boots on the ground' with the medical part of the mission to see where the people are, and the needs that they have," Cmdr. Angelica Almonte, a Navy Nurse Corps officer, said.
Heavy rains and major flooding destroyed much of the region's crops, driving food prices higher than the villagers can afford. Medical personnel, concerned about malnutrition, began taking weight-for-height and mid-upper arm circumference measurements to conduct surveys to determine the village's current nutritional needs.
"We are trying to get a nutritional assessment of the children," said Capt. (Dr.) Tim Shope, a Navy pediatrician. "We are also sending a group of health officials into the community to test water and get a general sense of their food and water supply."
The Kearsarge medical team members said the overall health in Morase is good. However, there is a concern that, with difficulty of getting enough food to outlying areas due to washed-out roads and bridges, the population will begin to suffer from severe malnutrition that can impair the immune system, leaving children more vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea, measles and tuberculosis.
Additionally, an inadequate supply of fresh water could lead to disease outbreaks such as cholera, typhoid and Hepatitis A.
"From the initial assessment, it looks like the people are generally healthy," said Lt. Candace D'Aurora, a Navy Nurse Corps officer. "The main issue right now is the villagers are saying they don't have food or water. That is the biggest issue we must address."
The areas needing the most immediate assistance have been prioritized by USAID‘s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Medical teams from Kearsarge will continue to meet with other agencies working in the country, such as the Centers for Disease Control, Doctors Without Borders and the Pan American Health Organization, to plan what services to provide after the initial assessments.
Kearsarge has about 150 military, Public Health Service and nongovernmental organization medical professionals aboard. The medical team was part of the ship's five-month Continuing Promise 2008 humanitarian deployment to the region.
(From a U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet news release.)