China: Handicap International Responds to Earthquake Victims

Handicap International is responding to the needs of injured people in Ya'an, a city in China's Sichuan province, after a deadly April 20th earthquake.


“Our main aim is to ensure that people who have been injured don't develop permanent complications or impairments because of lack of care,” says Eric Weerts, an emergency response and rehabilitation expert for Handicap International. “According to the Chinese government, around 200 people were killed and over 11,000 were injured.

“The gravely injured have been evacuated and are getting care and surgery in specialty hospitals. I'm more worried about those with less serious injuries who have to stay in the area where they won't get the care they need. They'll get basic care, like plaster casts, before being sent home. They won't be followed up for complications or less visible injuries caused by closed fractures, internal edema, or by lack of movement, which can lead to muscle atrophy.  They also miss out on rehabilitative care, which is essential to avoiding the development of physical impairments, which can turn into permanent disabilities.”

This is not the first time Sichuan has been hit by an earthquake. In May 2008, the province suffered a massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake, which Handicap International also responded to. “Because we're familiar with the area, we put our local partners—who we worked with in 2008—straight into action,” says Weerts.

“The lives of 500 to 600 people will be permanently affected by the earthquake over the long-term,” says Weerts, whose estimate is based on the number of victims affected by the 2008 and 2010 earthquakes in the provinces of Sichuan and Quinhai respectively. “When the seriously injured leave the hospital, they'll have to face the fact that their lives have changed forever. Handicap International has to evaluate how to satisfy their needs as part of the reconstruction process.”

Handicap International is beginning to implement an action plan based on its initial evaluation of the situation. Following the earthquake in 2008, Handicap International supported medical teams, treated the seriously injured, and supplied equipment and training in hospitals in the capital of Chengdu and district hospitals in Sichuan province.

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