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Disease, hunger dog Haiti flood victims
Updated: 2004-06-15 09:49

Doctors are fighting to prevent multiple epidemics among survivors from the drowned Haitian town of Mapou, one of the worst-hit areas in floods that killed about 2,600 people three weeks ago.

A small team of doctors from Cuba and from the Paris-based Doctors Without Borders are fighting outbreaks of mosquito-borne fevers like malaria and dengue in Mapou, which is still under water following the May 24 floods.

"Now the situation is under control. We are trying to prevent an epidemic. But it can explode any time," Cuban physician Miuber Castillo told reporters on Sunday.

The floods, triggered by days of torrential rains, swamped entire villages in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

More than 1,000 flood survivors have visited an improvised health clinic set up in Mapou, a valley village about 25 miles southeast of Port-au-Prince.

Apart from malaria and dengue, doctors reported a high incidence of diarrhea, respiratory failure and scabies.

Castillo and a Cuban colleague walked for more than six hours over mountains, across rivers and through bush and mud to reach Mapou, isolated when its only access road was washed away.

One of the lives they saved was that of Elda Lundi, 25, who gave birth to a baby at her home without assistance.

"When she was transported here to the clinic she appeared to be in a stable situation," said Castillo. "But suddenly her situation deteriorated seriously."

A physician with Doctors Without Borders donated blood for a transfusion to save the woman before she was evacuated by helicopter to Port-au-Prince, where she and the baby were reported to be doing well, Castillo said.

Doctors said they saw about 100 patients a day in their makeshift clinic but many others with serious conditions have no transport to get there.

"So we organized mobile clinics to bring medical assistance to those people in their communities," said Dr. Alexander Perez, one of more than 500 doctors and health specialists deployed in Haiti by Cuba since the late 1990s.

A helicopter on Sunday transported nearly eight tonnes of rice, vegetable oil and biscuits to the region, along with generators, plastic sheets for shelter, water buckets, tents and mattresses donated by Japan. Some 200 hungry children lined up for biscuits in Mapou on Sunday.

The International Red Cross was helping to move people from low-lying towns to villages built on nearby hillsides to minimize the risk of further flood disasters.

The six-month Caribbean hurricane season began on June 1, adding to fears of more heavy rains and mudslides. Haiti is particularly vulnerable to flash floods because its citizens have virtually stripped the land of trees to make charcoal, the primary cooking fuel.

Enough supplies to provide temporary shelter to some 360 families had arrived in the region but shelters for only 50 had been built, a Red Cross official said.

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