2010 year Press Release
  • 2010/07/12
    Haiti, one of Taiwans' diplomatic allies, was hit by a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake to the south of the capital Port-au-Prince on January 13th. According to Haiti government officials, it was the worst natural disaster in two centuries, bringing sustained serious damage to residents and property. At least 210,000 people were reported dead, and over 120 million were affected by the quake. Humanitarian Aid Pledged by Taiwans Government and Medical Societies In such cases, international cooperation is required immediately, and Taiwan responded quickly to the crisis with numerous humanitarian efforts. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health and Welfare, Executive Yuan (DOH), dispatched Taiwan International Health Action (TaiwanIHA) and a medical team assembled from National Cheng Kung University Hospital, Hsin Chu General Hospital and Taipei Hospital of DOH to Port-au-Prince on January 26th to join relief efforts. A rescue team of 23 specialists from the National Fire Agency of the Ministry of the Interior arrived in Haiti on January 16th to begin its work. The Taiwan Red Cross Society also organized a search and rescue team with 33 professionals to answer the call for aid. In addition, Taiwanroot Medical Peace Corp. also sent a medical team consisting of 66 members to Haiti to perform relief work. The Centers for Disease Control sent Dr. Bing-Sheng Ho, chief of the Global Outbreak Assistance Corps of Taiwan (GOACT) to Haiti on January 19th to evaluate the necessary conditions for relief and disease control in the aftermath of the earthquake. The mission was to get to know the operating details of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and staff from the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as to meet with Dr. Alex Larsen, the Minister of Health of Haiti; and Dr. Jean Hugues Henrys, vice chairman of the Haiti National Council of Health. In order to get involved in international collaboration regarding public health affairs, Dr. Ho also joined the daily Health Cluster Meeting held by the Haitian Ministry of Health and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), along with several international organizations and representatives from medical teams all over the world. <h6 style="text-decoration:underline; font-weight:bolder;">Immediate Medical Services and Relief Tasks</h6> Upon arriving in Haiti, TaiwanIHA chose Overseas Engineering & Construction Co. (OECC) as the base of the entire operation. Members called the first meeting to check pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for immediate use, and to discuss medical services and action plans based on the information given by domestic relief forces in affected areas. The team also evaluated all possible models of collaboration with other international medical teams. Finally, several service routes were planned to reduce difficulties while executing missions and increase the chances of success. To work with relief teams from other countries and international organizations by sharing limited resources efficiently, TaiwanIHA headed to the temporary office of the Haitian Ministry of Health to brief the vice chairman, explaining the missions and goals to be accomplished, as well as assistance that could be offered during this trip. Although the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) was responsible for coordinating relief tasks for every team, it was the Haitian Ministry of Health which made the final decision and issued permission for each relief activity. TaiwanIHA therefore completed the registration procedure in the UNOCHA office after communicating with the Ministry of Health. Missions of this trip included evaluating the situation, providing medical services and coordinating with international organizations. TaiwanIHA recruited professionals from orthopedics, surgery, injury, emergency medicine, cardiology, internal medicine, trauma/emergency/critical care, pharmaceutics and nursing to provide services. Team members provided service at the OECC, giving treatments to over 900 patients in three days. In addition to medical services performed during the day, TaiwanIHA also helped out at night in the General Hospital of the State University of Haiti to provide outpatient and emergency services. Approximately 2,500 patients were helped during the two-week service period, mostly with symptoms of respiratory tract infections, stomachache, myofascial pain syndrome, and ailments resulting from the unsanitary conditions such as conjunctivitis, urinary tract infection, dermatitis, vaginitis and wounds. About five percent of patients showed symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD), which required psychological counseling. Specialists in mental rehabilitation from each medical team worked with these affected victims. <h6 style="text-decoration:underline; font-weight:bolder;">Participation in International Collaborative Activities</h6> To stay coordinated with international organizations, TaiwanIHA kept continuous contact with UNOCHA and the Haitian Ministry of Health, while participating in the Health Cluster Meeting scheduled by the United Nations for the discussion of medical projects with other teams. In addition, the team visited several international medical groups such as Belgian First Aid & Support Team (B-FAST) and teams from Columbia, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba to exchange experiences and evaluate the circumstances of affected areas. B-FAST offered the option of providing extra medical supplies to alleviate the shortage, thus ensuring the collaborating medical teams had the necessary resources available to carry out their tasks. The liaison between TaiwanIHA and the disease monitoring and evaluation groups of UNOCHA allowed TaiwanIHA to join daily meetings with WHO/ PAHO and staff from the United States, Canada, France and China. The daily results from field surveys and analysis reports became a significant reference for UNOCHA to deal with contingencies and to establish an epidemic monitoring system. Aside from providing emergency medical services to victims, TaiwanIHA actively joined international medical conferences, while inspecting and learning the operation models of medical teams from the US, Japan, Canada, Spain, Cuba, and organizations such as Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and The German Red Cross. In order to further meet medical needs and establish infrastructure in Haiti, the Taiwan DOH designed strategies and work procedures based on its first-hand research examining the possibility of cooperating with local hospitals and primary medical systems. Taiwan’s government and NGOs connected and cooperated upon learning about the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Experienced doctors, scientists and engineers joined the relief operation to aid in international humanitarian efforts. The crisis has given Taiwan the chance to demonstrate its solid ability to participate in international affairs by providing well-trained specialists, professional medical services, and experience in disease-control. Taiwan has played an important role in assisting Haiti through its developments in medical sciences and services and substantial cooperation with its allies. This rescue mission has become a successful achievement recognized worldwide.
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