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Multiple Challenges Facing Post-Tsunami Samoa; Health, Survivor Stress & Water

Multiple Challenges Facing Post-Tsunami Samoa; Health, Survivor Stress & Water

Recently returned from Samoa, medical experts including Dr Teuila Percival who heads Pacific Health at Auckland University, say survivors of the September 29th disaster are suffering from chronic “tsunami lung” which is shortening their lives.

We’ve previously posted about the public health risks facing tsunami survivors.  It seems it’s now being picked up by mainstream media. Public health professionals in Samoa voiced concerns about deaths resulting from untreated and infected injuries from Day one. They said secondary deaths would result from injuries and infections left untreated. One doctor, whose Red Cross diary we published here, talked of the challenge of trying to convince an injured survivor to leave his family to get treatment. His infection was spreading and posing serious risks to his well-being. It was only after much urging that he finally agreed to leave his family to attend the medical clinic.

One thing that some may have overlooked is that when dead bodies have been in the water, it contaminates the water. That’s because a corpse leaks faeces and release gases, some of them poisonous, as part of decomposition at some stage.

Another story we heard from survivors was of men, who had survived the tsunami with severe injuries but still refusing to get treatment. Instead, they got stuck into clearing debris and rebuilding their homes. As noble and appreciated as that is, it poses a dangerous risk to their health and life if they don’t stop to get urgent medical treatment.

Public health professionals in Samoa were predicting from day one that there would be secondary deaths among survivors simply because of infection from untreated wounds and injuries.

This is where our men, and our women, need to really take care of themselves and take their injuries seriously.

That brings us to post-traumatic stress disorder. Many, as predicted by health professionals, are suffering from it. The challenge that grief counsellors faced in the first weeks post-tsunami is something we posted about earlier: some survivors did not want to talk. Their refusal to talk about it is said to concern counsellors citing Samoa’s previously high suicide rate.

UNICEF Media Release

UNICEF supports water tankering for displaced Samoan families

Apia, 1 November 2009 – Almost 3,000 people, many of them children, are still relying on roadside delivery of water a month after a tsunami hit Samoa.

The UN Children’s Fund is supporting the Samoan Water Authority (SWA) with two water tankers to provide essential supplies for families who don’t have any other water source in the tsunami-devastated south and southeast of Samoa. The SWA is operating up to eight water tankers, supported by UNICEF and partner organisations, that run between 8am and midnight on a daily basis.

UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Madhav Pahari, says that after the tsunami on 29 September, many people who originally lived in coastal areas moved inland, often setting up temporary shelters on plantation lands that are on higher ground.

“The tsunami destroyed and damaged many people’s houses by the coast, forcing them to relocate. A lot of families also feel that it’s not safe to live beside the sea any more,” says Mr Pahari.

“Although running water has since been restored to the tsunami-devastated areas, a lot of people have relocated to agricultural areas where there is no existing water source.

“Trucking in water for these displaced families is essential to meet their immediate humanitarian needs for drinking water, as well as water for cleaning, washing and sanitation.

“Delivery is along secondary dirt and gravel roads, near to where people are sheltering. Families, including young children, bring containers to the roadside where they are filled directly from the water tanker.

“Although this situation is far from ideal, families do appear to be receiving adequate quantities of water for their needs.”

Mr Pahari says providing water using tankers is only ever a temporary measure until a more permanent source of water can be developed.

“UNICEF is working with the SWA to bring in a water engineer within the next week whose job will be to identify safe water sources for the displaced population and to provide options for a more sustainable water supply. We will then need to identify funding options with the Government and partner organisations. The area has a number of rivers and lakes, so it may be that tapping these sources using a gravity-fed piping system is a practical and cost effective option.”

In the aftermath of the tsunami, UNICEF has provided 3,500 collapsible 10-litre water containers; 5,000 bars of soap; 2,000 oral rehydration salts (to treat the dehydration resulting from diarrhoea); and close to 10,000 copies of key hygiene messages including the importance of hand-washing before eating and after using the toilet, food safety and rubbish removal. In addition, supplies of 5,000 water purification tablets are available for deployment as required.

CocaCola NZ and Air NZ have partnered with UNICEF to fly in 2,000 bottles of drinking water for distribution to children at tsunami-affected schools.

7 comments (Add your own)

1. Josabelle wrote:
Hey i know that it was tough out there i think someone died from my side and god is with us he is there for us just have faith i know life is hard even for me but along as you take care of youyr family u will have them in youre heart. Just remeber that pray and help will come Just be safe to all of u in samoan langauge 2 say bye is:fa GOD IS WITH U

Tue, March 30, 2010 @ 10:46 PM

2. Ueta Pene wrote:
The Post Tsunami concerns to an extent may rise to even more serious effects for the rest of the country. While some have already been cited, there could be twice as many more hidden effects. Moving places from point A to B (around the town Area) is no question about uncertainity for the present and the future Already on the news was a bank robbery at Vaitele, and then .. who is next?

The 'Post Tsunami' is a serious issue and is now studied by the Samoan students of Lumanai (Year 7 - Year 10) at Clover Park Middle School and Tupuranga - Manukau City, Auckland New Zealand.

Thanks for the document.

Fri, April 16, 2010 @ 12:35 AM

3. Tech Help USA wrote:
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Make sure you check it out.

Thu, June 3, 2010 @ 1:19 PM

4. Amynp wrote:
Hi Alison,That's the one I was tinhking of. In a more recent warning alert, the ODT reprinted a photo from the much earlier one showing people down at the jetty checking it out Good luck for your friend in Samoa.

Tue, February 21, 2012 @ 12:18 AM

5. uruzdpy wrote:
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Thu, February 23, 2012 @ 3:57 AM

6. oqrvfdage wrote:
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Tue, February 28, 2012 @ 1:02 PM

7. Mourad wrote:
Terrorist attack (__9/11/01__) + Japan Magnitude 8.8(__ 3/10/11 __) add it up and you get (__12/21/12__) Could be anhetor disaster, Getting more hide tides soon because the moon had gotten very close to the earth yesterday 2:00 pm central. Next year it is supposed to happen again of course. This age right now (Pisces) is certainly about to end. The age of Aquarius shall begin on the day the Mayan calendar's expiration. My prediction is there would be a great flood on the next high tide.

Sun, December 9, 2012 @ 6:31 AM

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