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St. Johnís Disaster Relief Team in the Nicobars

Medical surveillance

Dressing wounds at our clinic at Bengalee village on Teressa

Documentation of morbidity patterns and regular feedback once again proved vital for determining appropriate needs of the affected population rather than accepting wrong inputs based on hearsay and rumours. The news of Sweden sending 200,000 Cholera vaccines and the presence of numerous health care providers (29 doctors in one hotel we spent the night) and their vaccination supplies at Port Blair while we awaited our flight out was totally uncalled for and a burden on limited resources in the field. Nowhere in the world is mass vaccination recommended for secondary epidemics are extremely rare after natural disasters. These decisions are probably taken far away from the ground reality for disease surveillance on the islands does not suggest any such need. It is also well known that vaccination needs refrigeration to the point of service, time, skilled personnel, adequate disposable needles and syringes - factors unrealistic in the present situation. In addition, any of these attempts would divert scarce resources away from more important tasks of sanitation, protecting drinking water supplies, provision of shelter/clothing and disease surveillance. The numerous health care providers on the ground as we leave would be worth the effort to make them stay back as teams to begin disease surveillance on independent islands. Also obvious was unscientific choice of health care personal sent in with inadequate understanding of the epidemiology of the disaster and anticipated needs, unprepared to function outside the four walls of a hospital.

Mr. Ajit Chaudhuri, Executive Director & Ms.Skalzang Youdon, Programme Officer

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