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Ecuador earthquake: Urgent need to access areas worst affected

Emergency Rehabilitation

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador on the evening of Saturday 16th April. On 20th April, 587 people were reported to have been killed and more than 8,000 injured. According to the United Nations, more than one million people (of a population of around 16 million) may have been affected. The country has suffered considerable material damage and it is not possible to access entire areas of the North West.

Many areas unreachable

The main towns and cities affected are located in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabi, close to the earthquake’s epicentre. Major problems accessing the area have already been reported in the field by humanitarian operators, and major aftershocks risk worsening the situation.

“Many areas affected by the earthquake are out of reach because of the state of the roads,” explains Simon Trichot, who is coordinating Handicap International’s emergency response in Ecuador. “Some towns in the north-west of the country are literally inaccessible. That’s where the people worst affected by the disaster live. The more time passes, the more we fear the situation is going to get worse, and the more the human toll will rise.”

Handicap International has deployed a team of seven emergency specialists coming from six different countries to support the national and international response for the affected populations, in close coordination with national and local authorities.

Providing essential rehabilitation care

Handicap International's response will include rehabilitation care and psychosocial support (group discussions and one-to-one sessions) for injured people and families affected by the disaster.

“The number of people who suffer crush fractures is particularly high during earthquakes,” explains Eric Weerts, Handicap International’s emergency specialist. “Many people also suffer injuries that can lead to amputations, nerve damage with limb paralysis, or spinal cord injuries that can give rise to paralysis. When medical facilities are disorganised or destroyed, as is the case with Manta hospital in the severely affected Maniba district, we use our expertise to ensure the injured receive appropriate care and treatment.”

Other actions may be implemented to support the authorities and local organisations of physiotherapists and healthcare staff in affected areas with the distribution of humanitarian aid, the care and treatment of the injured, and the inclusion of the most vulnerable people (people with disabilities, older people and pregnant women) in the humanitarian response.

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