Pharmacy Contributions in Haiti Relief Efforts by Allison M Mann PharmD

Clinical Pearl: January 22, 2009 – Pharmacy Contributions in Haiti Relief Efforts
 
As I am sure everyone is aware, last week the island nation of Haiti was hit by a devastating earth quake.  This natural event would be devastating for any country, but is an especially large blow to Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.  On Saturday, Jan 16th, The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) issued a call to action asking for pharmacists to volunteer for 2 – week stints at United Nation aid centers being set up in the Dominican Republic that will serve refugees and victims of last week’s earthquake in Haiti.  Within 72 hours of this call, more than 2500 pharmacists had generously volunteered their time!  Because of the overwhelming response, relief organziers are asking those wishing to volunteer to be patient – there is plenty of time to help, as the recovery effort is expected to last 6 to 9 months.  Those who are interested in volunteering or at least being added to the list should fill out the Haiti Relief Volunteer Response form, available on the APhA website (link above).  For those unable to commit to 2 weeks of volunteering, financial contributions are also greatly needed by organizers, who suggest donating to the American Red Cross or other relief agencies.  Futhermore, individuals or companies with pharmaceutical/medical supplies or services (ie: transportation, storage) to donate should access the Center for International Disaster Information website or contact federal officials at cip@hhs.gov, or alerts@rxresponse.org.
So what exactly are pharmacists doing to aid the relief efforts in Haiti?  APhA has a Haiti Diary available for viewing, written by pharmacists who have just arrived in Haiti.  Thus far, pharmacists have been primarily involved in ensuring all volunteers are receiving proper malaria prophylaxis, as well as immunizations like typhoid, hepatitis A, and tetanus.  Additionally, one pharmacist notes in his entry that an apparent H1N1 outbreak in the country has led to recommded doses of the H1N1 vaccine for all.  Lastly, pharmacists are serving basic pharmacy services to the large quantity of military personnel who have been sent to Haiti. 
 
How can I get involved in the future?  Pharmacists are an integral part of the medical response to any sort of disaster – whether it be natural or man – made.  Those interested in learning more about becoming a member of local relief groups can contact the Colorado Disaster Medical Assistance Team.  Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) exist in most states and are designed to assist local resources in providing medical treatment in an altered environment. It is typically a 35 person team complete with doctors, nurses, PA’s, paramedics, EMT’s, pharmacists, logistics specialists, and communication specialists.  When deployed, a DMAT will carry enough food, water, and supplies to last 3 days.  The Colorado DMAT has deployed volunteers all over the country to assist after disasters like hurricanes, or bombings.
 
Additionally, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has developed a Volunteer Mobilizer System which will collect medical volunteer information into a database which can be activated in case of a public health or disaster emergency – please see their website for additional questions and instructions on how to join.
 
Just in case the links within the text did not work, here they are:
 
 
Colorado Disaster Medical Assistance Team: http://www.nmrtcentral.com 
 
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/epr/Public/HPP/Staff/CVM.html
 
 
 
Allison Mann, Pharm.D.