Nicaragua – Hurricane Otto 2016

Hurricane Otto was the first tropical cyclone since Hurricane Cesar-Douglas (1996) to crossover from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Hurricane Otto quickly intensified on November 23-24, 2016 to a category 3 major hurricane. Otto hit Nicaragua at the peak of its intensity on November 24. Otto weakened rapidly as it moved across southern Nicaragua on Thursday after making landfall on that country’s Caribbean coast as a dangerous Category 2 storm. It was the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America.Otto left torrential rainfall across the affected regions with some areas receiving up to a month’s worth of rain in only a few days. This created life-threatening floods, which caused devastating landslides. It is reported that Otto only claimed about 4 lives in Nicaragua. However, the aftermath of Hurricane Otto left thousands homeless and seeking refuge. Also, many buildings and import infrastructure were destroyed including health care facilities. Hurricane Otto left disease and detriment in its wake, and the CDC reports that infections and disease in that area are at an all-time heightened state. Nicaragua communities experience intense floods, which can have both direct and indirect impacts upon those affected by them. The risk to people’s health from floods depends upon a complex range of factors including: prior health status, age, gender, socio-economic grouping, cultural background, levels of social capital, extent of flood damage, institutional response and factors affecting the recovery process.
International Medical Relief (IMR) was quick to respond to this disaster due to there already being a medical mission trip planned in January. IMR has been the exclusive humanitarian provider of medical care to this region for a decade, and now the Nicaraguan government and communities along the San Juan River are asking for our assistance to help the communities we know so well. Winds topping 120mph, rain, flash flooding, and landslides overwhelmed the riverfront communities where our team will be working, forcing many from their homes and leaving the land in ruin. Emergency medical clinics were set up in order to treat different conditions. IMR typically sees skin infections following hurricanes, and we expect that local doctors will begin to identify those in the coming weeks as residents return to their homes to try and rebuild their lives. Our team anticipates providing extensive wound care and treating fungal infections people receive from coming into contact with damaged property and land. Local clean water sources are also threatened as floodwaters seep into water supplies, which will likely cause widespread infectious disease outbreaks. Apart from infections, the CDC anticipates diarrhea, stomach issues, and upper respiratory diseases could potentially be on the rise for next couple of months. The winds stirred up mold and contaminants from the ground, and the local hospital is reporting seeing a large number of patients with asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. People who had electricity lost power, which compromised their food supply and will likely lead to more digestive complications.

IMR clinics are composed of both our corps of international medical staff and local providers who partner shoulder-to-shoulder to help deliver sustainable healthcare elevating access to care for our patients. During this medical mission trip, a total of 64 volunteers and staff served over 380 patients. IMR provided much needed aid to the local health care system during the recovery period. IMR teams that included EMTs, nurses, doctors, dentists, and students who reached beyond borders in order to provide critical care to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the aftermath of this hurricane. During our urgent response to this disaster, IMR was able to provide a total aid value of $810,284.

Also, our first responders medical team also provided community health classes and conducted a children’s program engaging the youth in therapeutic activities designed in cooperation with children therapists specializing in trauma and loss to further the patient’s knowledge and education on health matters related to their personal health needs. During IMR’s critical work, we also provided 20 health education classes including hygiene, solar water disinfection, oral hygiene, sanitation, grieving and others. Over 990 people participated in these education classes. Educating communities allow for locals to become more empowered by their own health, as well as for the health of other community members.

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