June marks the start of 2010 hurricane season. Experts predict as many as 14 serious storms this year could strike the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America. AmeriCares relief experts are very concerned hurricanes could impede the earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti and disperse the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – further threatening coastal communities in the United States.
The oil spill is compounding concerns for coastal communities in the U.S. – especially in hard hit Louisiana and Mississippi, where many are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. A hurricane's storm surge could force the oil inland, exposing thousands of families to oil residues and dispersants, the long-term effects of which are largely unknown.
"The oil spill poses a whole host of health problems, not the least of which is chemical pneumonia from inhaling thick oil residues," said AmeriCares Medical Director Dr. Frank J. Bia. '"Inhaling hydrocarbon vapors can also cause nausea, vomiting, eye irritation, headaches, dizziness and breathing difficulties. Fumes and inhaled residue are especially dangerous for children with asthma and other breathing problems."
One in ten Louisiana households with children has at least one child with asthma, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
"One of the biggest lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina is to be prepared," said Christoph Gorder, AmeriCares Vice President of Emergency Response. "AmeriCares continues to strengthen our relationships in the region to ensure rapid response in the event of another devastating hurricane. We're also reaching out to partners to plan additional deliveries of medicines and supplies needed to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions potentially worsened by the oil spill."
In Haiti, where more than 1.2 million men, women and children remain in tent cities – often with only makeshift latrines for sanitation and leaky hoses for drinking water – a hurricane could make the health situation far worse.
"Hurricane season is upon us and the need for medical aid to help fight waterborne diseases this year is even more critical since so many health care facilities have been destroyed or damaged," said Dr. Bia, an expert in infectious diseases and tropical medicine.
Dr. Bia conducted an assessment in Haiti earlier this year, helping AmeriCares relief team on the ground make plans to help vulnerable people living in tent cities during hurricane season. In preparation, AmeriCares delivered – and will continue to deliver - bottled water, water purification supplies, antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, fever-reducing medicines and IV solutions critical for preventing and treating related illnesses.
In preparation for these storms and the damage they can do, AmeriCares has stocked disaster aid in key areas prone to hurricanes – including Haiti and Gulf Coast communities.
AmeriCares has been providing aid to people devastated by natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires for over 25 years – including a massive, ongoing response to Hurricane Katrina. AmeriCares disaster relief professionals have the expertise needed to deliver emergency supplies and critical medicines to areas destroyed by these violent storms.