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Urgent medical care needed in earthquake-hit Haiti

Thousands of people were flocking Friday to makeshift hospitals run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in the quake-devastated Haitian capital Port au Prince in need of immediate medical aid that was unavailable.

“In the MSF hospital we have thousands of people needing surgical intervention,” Stefano Zannini, the medical group’s chief of mission in Haiti, told reporters by telephone from Port au Prince.

He said many were simply waiting in the courtyard outside the hospitals hoping for help.

Another aid worker, speaking also by phone, said he was transporting injured people to a hospital but it remained unclear if they could receive medical attention, owing to overcrowding, a lack of supplies and a shortage of staff.

Doctors and nurses, apparently in shock and concerned for their own families, have left medical facilities, the senior aid official in the country said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to discuss the issue with the press.

“The three most important needs we have identified now are medical care, food and drinking water,” Zannini said, noting he had not seen any major food distributions.

While some food was reaching the capital from agricultural areas nearby, the prices had shot up exponentially, leaving much of Haiti’s impoverished people without the means to purchase the basic supplies of vegetables, humanitarian officials in the country said.

Aid workers were saying there was a complete breakdown of the governmental structure in Haiti, with “no functioning state.”

Ministers were dead or missing, the presidential palace and ministries destroyed and the country’s bureaucracy in total disarray, with civil servants unable to communicate with each other.

Shortages of food and water were also presenting a problem for the humanitarian relief efforts, hampering the ability of doctors to transport patients and feed their own staff.

Zannini with MSF said he experienced a small glimmer of hope on the first night after the earthquake struck.

“Our first surgical activity that night was a complicated delivery,” he said.

“I am proud to say we were able to save both the lives of the baby and mother.”

–DPA

vd/rn

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