Pakistan-administered Kashmir: ICRC field hospital opens in Muzaffarabad

from International Committee of the Red Cross
Published on 21 Oct 2005
ICRC Press release No. 05/59

Geneva(ICRC) - A 100-bed field hospital was opened in Muzaffarabad today by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Its first patient was a girl with a broken and badly infected leg, a type of injury all too frequent as a result of the earthquake.

The hospital is staffed by over 50 medical personnel furnished mainly by the Norwegian and Finnish Red Cross and by over 100 locally hired medical and support personnel. The latter will number 150 within a few weeks. The facility, which will serve as a general hospital, consists of an assembly of over 30 tents, including staff accommodation, a kitchen, administration office and pharmacy. It will provide care in the domains of surgery, obstetrics, internal medicine and paediatrics.

The structure itself was provided by the Norwegian and Finnish Red Cross and set up in close cooperation with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the country's public health authorities. The plan is for the hospital to remain operational while existing ministry of health facilities are being repaired.

Over 30 seriously injured earthquake victims have been admitted so far. Twenty-nine of them - all women and children - were flown in by ICRC helicopter from four isolated villages in the area of Ghori, in the Neelum valley. In all, ICRC staff have so far evacuated over 400 injured people from the earthquake area, mostly by helicopter.

Until now, many of the victims have had to be taken all the way to Islamabad. The new facility brings medical care closer to the scene while taking pressure off other hospitals in Muzaffarabad and Islamabadthat have been overcrowded with earthquake victims. Before the earthquake there were two hospitals and three sub-district hospitals in the Muzaffarabad area. The largest - with 350 beds - was totally destroyed by the disaster while the others suffered structural damage, but continue to function with limited capacity.

In order to save hospital beds for the most seriously injured, the ICRC is also setting up a smaller basic health-care unit, consisting of 13 tents, next to the field hospital. This structure is run by a team of eight from the German Red Cross and will perform minor surgery and treat common illnesses. If necessary, however, the field hospital could be expanded to accommodate 200 beds.

This is the third time this year that the ICRC has deployed field hospitals. Similar structures were set up earlier this year for tsunami victims in Indonesia's Aceh province as well as in Puthukkudiyiruppu, Sri Lanka. In recent years the ICRC has also erected such facilities in Darfur(2004), Haiti(2004), Monrovia(2002) and northern Afghanistan(2001).

The ICRC medical programme in the earthquake zone will also include new basic health-care units (provided by the Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross) in the remoter valleys. These are similar to the Japanese Red Cross unit that has been treating patients at Chikar since 17 October. This set-up ensures that as many victims as possible will be treated locally and return home to their families, while only the most serious cases will have to be flown out to the referral facilities.

For further information, please contact:

Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 79 217 32 64

LeylaBerlemont, ICRC Islamabad, mobile : +92 300 850 81 38 or tel. +92 51 282 47 80

Olivier Moecklior RamzaHamdaniICRC Muzaffarabad, satellite phone + 88 216 511 012 97

orHelena Laatio(ICRC/Finnish Red Cross), satellite phone +88 2165 420 7201