International relief efforts need to be improved to deal with Haiti-like disasters

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Washington, February 3 (ANI): A group of trauma surgeons on bmj.com has said that despite the frightening regularity of humanitarian disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, international responses remain fragmented and must be improved.

They warn that an uncoordinated push to get people and equipment into the affected zone as soon as possible can worsen the situation and reduce the effectiveness of relief efforts.

They also advise anyone thinking about volunteering to join an established group and obtain appropriate training to enable them to function in a disaster zone.

Many healthcare professionals from developed countries do not know what to do when faced with the horrors of a major humanitarian disaster, so proper preparation is key to providing prompt relief, according to Dr Charles Krin and colleagues.

Medical volunteers should have a basic understanding of field and trauma medicine, be able to treat wounds and fractures with limited equipment and in non-sterile conditions, and know basic field sanitation and water purification techniques.

These measures will help avoid well intentioned but sometimes misguided help from uncoordinated and untrained people that can hamper relief efforts, according to the surgeons.

"Surely, we have learnt enough from the natural disasters of the last few decades to allow us to set priorities and offer a reasonably coordinated international relief effort the next time this happens," said the surgeons.

They call for international dialogue to explore ways to improve the response to these events.

"We have a perfect opportunity in Haiti to work towards true international cooperation," they said. The Haitians will benefit from a long-term commitment to rebuilding, and the world medical community will benefit from the lessons learned when next we are called upon to provide disaster relief," they added. (ANI)

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