As search and rescue operations continue following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the Red Cross is providing life-saving health support to tens of thousands of survivors many of whom are vulnerable children under five. Aftershocks can complicate search and rescue efforts, and put pressure on already stretched health services.
During relief activities across the most-affected provinces of Manabí, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo, Los Ríos, Santa Elena and Guayas, Red Cross teams are finding the earthquake has had the greatest impact on already vulnerable communities. It is estimated that 10,000 of those affected by the earthquake are children under 5, a further 10,000 survivors are aged over 65, and around 4,000 are pregnant women.
“We are working on a very big operation, in six provinces that are among the most affected. The Ecuadorian Red Cross will focus its response in rural and remote areas and on providing support to vulnerable groups such as young children who may need early relief, wound management and psychosocial support,” said Walter Cotte, the Americas Regional Director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“Other vulnerable groups of survivors who could need urgent care may be pregnant women and elderly people over 65 years.
“Older people who may have pre-existing medical conditions, or may be in need of essential medication will also be a priority. Our teams are already on the ground and are expanding their health services, as well as the provision of shelter, water and sanitation,” said Mr Cotte.
“The health needs following an event like this can be overwhelming.”
More than 800 volunteers and staff of the Ecuadorian Red Cross are in the affected communities, carrying out search and rescue activities, giving first aid support, and providing ambulance services to hundreds of injured and traumatized people.
Current health priorities for Red Cross volunteers and staff are triage, first aid, pre-hospital care, trauma care, wound management, tetanus prevention, surgery, and psychosocial support.
The IFRC has released 405,778 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support Ecuadorian Red Cross response and recovery operations. Support is also coming from sister Red Cross societies in Colombia, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain and Norway among others, and from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
An aeroplane with a payload capacity of 65 tons is currently being stocked with emergency supplies at the Regional Logistics Warehouse in Panama, and will arrive in Ecuador today, 20 April.
Ecuador’s National Secretariat for Risk Management estimates that the earthquake has caused at least 238 deaths and 1,577 injures; 370 buildings have been destroyed and 151 damaged. In addition 26 schools have been affected.