On April 25th, 2015, a powerful earthquake of magnitude 8.1 struck the Gorkha region of central Nepal, resulting in over 9,000 deaths, and over 23,000 people injured. NYC Medics arrived in Kathmandu on April 29th, and was tasked by the Nepal Ministry of Health and Populations (MoHP) to deploy a mobile medical team to the Dhading district, located close to the earthquake’s epicenter.
In partnership with Himalayan Healthcare (HHC), a local NGO providing primary health care to remote villages, NYC Medics deployed two mobile medical teams to the Dhading district. Logistics were particularly challenging in this part of Nepal, as the mountainous terrain made it difficult to reach remote villages except by helicopter, and most helicopters had been tasked by the Nepalese government to other relief efforts. Despite these challenges, the NYC Medics mobile medical teams were able to access and provide medical care in the areas assigned by the MoHP, including Jharlang and several surrounding villages for Team 1, and Rigaun and several surrounding villages for Team 2. Though the initial request was for a three-month commitment from NYC Medics for the Nepal response, the MoHP and the Health Cluster determined that the acute healthcare needs were not as severe and widespread as initial assessments suggested, and thus the MoHP requested foreign medical teams including NYC Medics to stand down after one-month.
Through the course of the one-month deployment to Nepal, NYC Medics clinicians treated over 1,200 patients and performed over 90 minor surgical procedures in dozens of remote mountain villages. One particularly meaningful encounter involved a pregnant woman with pre-eclampsia who was unable to access pre-natal care after the earthquake. When NYC Medics clinicians were led to her home by concerned family members, she was found to be progressing to full-blown eclampsia, and both her life and the life of her unborn child were in immediate danger. As her eclampsia progressed to uncontrolled seizures, the NYC Medics team successfully arranged for immediate evacuation by helicopter to Kathmandu Medical College Teaching Hospital for emergency c-section. On follow-up, both the patient and her newborn baby were recovering well and preparing to return home. Using mobile medical teams to reach remote communities cut off from aid once again proved effective in saving lives such as these.
Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm with wind gusts up to 320 kph, made landfall in Vanuatu between March 13-14, 2015. An estimated 166,000 people (two-thirds of the nation’s population) required urgent humanitarian assistance after the cyclone destroyed or damaged homes and public infrastructure across twenty-two islands.
An NYC Medics team arrived in Port Vila, Vanuatu on March 17, and was assigned to provide urgent medical relief to the Shepherd Islands, a group of 6 islands north of Port Vila. Through the course of the initial two-week deployment, the first NYC Medics Mobile Medical Team provided emergency medical care throughout the islands, reaching each of the remote islands by whatever means necessary, ranging from sailboat, to helicopter, to single-engine propeller plane. Aside from providing urgent medical care, the NYC Medics team also established a sentinel site for disease surveillance on Tongoa Island, administered a measles vaccination catch-up campaign with vitamin A supplementation and de-worming for all children under 5 years of age (in partnership with UNICEF), and performed health facility assessments for the Vanuatu Ministry of Health.
After this successful initial deployment, NYC Medics formalized an agreement with AmeriCares to be its implementing partner for a CERF grant awarded through the UN flash appeal process. This funding allowed NYC Medics to extend its deployment for an additional one month with two additional mobile medical teams deployed to Tanna Island. These teams were tasked with supporting local health facilities and hospitals, as well as performing mobile medical outreach to remote communities, by providing both emergency medical care and stop-gap primary care while the local health care system worked to restore itself. This included treating infected wounds from injuries sustained during the cyclone, caring for patients with infectious disease such as pneumonia and cellulitis, arranging emergency medical evacuation for patients with life-threatening infections and skin conditions, and even delivering a baby. Close collaboration between the NYC Medics team, Health Cluster participants such as WHO and UNICEF, the Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila Hospital, and other NGOs such as AmeriCares greatly multiplied the effectiveness of the NYC Medics deployment in Vanuatu, leading to tangible outputs such as hundreds of children vaccinated and numerous critically ill patients saved from death.
Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Typhoon Yolanda) made landfall in The Philippines on November 8, 2013 resulting in extensive damage to infrastructure. Heavy rains caused widespread flooding and landslides, particularly in East Samar and Leyte provinces, storm surges reached 13 feet, and winds sustained at 175 mph were recorded. Over 6,300 deaths and 27,000 injuries occurred as a direct result of Typhoon Haiyan; 16 million people were affected and 4.1 million displaced.
Within 72 hours of the event, an NYC Medics assessment team was on the ground working with The Philippines’ government and international coordinating bodies. Soon after, a team of 14 emergency medical professionals arrived and began providing care through mobile medical clinics, with particular emphasis on remote communities in Eastern Samar province. The NYC Medics Mobile Medical Team treated between 100 and 525 patients per day, reaching communities in Guiuan, Homonhon Island, Hernani and Llorente. Medical conditions encountered by the team ranged from patients with infected wounds, to infectious diseases resulting from crowding and loss of shelter such as pneumonia and diarrhea, to exacerbations of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes resulting from a loss of access to regular primary medical care. In a few extreme cases, patients with life threatening conditions—such as renal failure and pulmonary edema, and wounds requiring amputation—were identified by the medical team and quickly evacuated to referral hospitals run by partner NGOs.
At the end of the two-week deployment, the NYC Medics team treated over 2,500 patients, and performed approximately 100 minor surgeries. The NYC Medics team also collaborated with the Department of Health in Guiuan to provided tetanus vaccination to difficult-to-reach island communities surrounding Guiuan, and formed a partnership with AmeriCares who donated a shipment of drugs and medical supplies.
On March 11, 2011 a powerful 9.0 earthquake struck Japan not only triggering a tsunami measuring 124 feet high and traveling up to 6 miles inland, but also severely compromising the integrity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Within two weeks of the catastrophic event NYC Medics advanced team was on the ground conducting a comprehensive needs assessment of the worst affected areas with local partner, Tokushukai Medical Assistance Team (TMAT), a nonprofit disaster relief organization. TMAT formally requested assistance with the radiologic element of this crisis.
Responding to TMATs request, NYC Medics dispatched a team of leading experts in radiological disaster management and preparedness. The special three-person team, composed of leading risk communication expert, Dr. Steven Becker from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and NYC Medics volunteers, internationally recognized board-certified health physicist, Dr. Andrew Karam, and board certified emergency medicine physician Dr. Katherine Uraneck conducted a rapid crisis assessment throughout the affected area, focusing on Fukushima prefecture; throughout the assessment, Dr. Karam took independent measurements and readings of radiation in the affected areas as research for his presentations. They visited hospitals, municipal government officials, evacuation centers, and areas devastated by the tsunami, to help prepare for a six day lecture and workshop series which provided training in radiation issues, incident management and psychosocial risk communication for public officials, hospital, public information and emergency response professionals.
They achieved the following:
• Lectured and lead workshops to audiences throughout Tokyo Metropolis, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures — addressed issues ranging from the psychosocial impact on the affected population to explaining radiation readings & measurements and risk communication
• Reached over 800 medical practitioners, first responders and key officials
• Assisted partners with training and preparedness to strengthen current efforts and future incident response
• Worked with officials of the federal government participating in very rich and wide-ranging discussion on ways of reducing the impacts of the disaster, including growing concerns of exposure, both psychosocial and physical/medical risks
• Provided recommendations to prepare and respond to the ongoing efforts and plan for future incidents incorporating medical and disaster relief issues surrounding evacuation centers and displaced persons
“The lectures have greatly lessened the fear among the hospital staff.”
~ Dr. Takao Suzuki, CEO, Tokushukai Medical Group
On January 12, 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti’s main city, Port au Prince, killing more than 222,000 people and injuring more than 300,000. An impoverished nation where nearly 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day; the earthquake affected 2.8 million people and rendered more than 1.5 million homeless.
NYC Medics guiding principal, the core of our organization, is rapid deployment of mobile medical units that provide urgent medical care to those who would not have access to healthcare. We fill gaps in relief operations ensuring universal access for vulnerable, disaster-affected populations, regardless of location or situation. Meaning, we go into remote, isolated areas that would otherwise go without aid or any form of medical services. In Haiti, our model allowed us to work in areas that other organizations would not.
Within four days of the catastrophe the NYCM assessment team was on the ground working with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair and other local and international organizations paving way for the first mobile medial team to arrive three days later. This team of ten seasoned, emergent care veterans arrived within one week of the event, transporting two tons of donated essential medicines and medical supplies across the border from the Dominican Republic.
Creating the model of mobile medical teams in disaster relief efforts five years earlier allowed our teams to immediately begin working in the field. In less than 12 hours of arriving in Haiti, the first medical camp was erected in a schoolyard in one of the worst hit and dangerous areas of Port au Prince, Cite Militaire; in the first three days NYCM volunteers treated over one thousand patients seeing everything from sever crush injuries, fractures, and abrasions to anxiety, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. As the urgent needs in this community diminished, NYCM moved operations to a US Army base near the airport, and joined patrols by the 82nd Airborne, moving from one IDP camp to the next, treating and transporting the worst medical cases. The team ended its stay by staffing the night shift at Hôpital de L’Universite d’Haiti in Port au Prince.
Three additional medial teams, all of whom worked endlessly to ease the suffering of the survivors of the quake, worked throughout Port au Prince as well as beyond the city borders in regions that had not received any form of humanitarian aid until the arrival of NYCM.
Establishing partnerships with local and international organizations, NYCM teams worked with the United States Army, the United Nations, the Jenkins-Penn Haiti Relief Organization (J/P HRO), Hopital de L’Universite d’Haiti, the Harvard Health Initiative and Hôpital Albert Schweitzer addressing the needs of those affected by the devastating earthquake. In total, NYC Medics directed four teams – 53 medical professional – in disaster relief efforts treating more than 12,000 survivors; caring on average for 350 patients a day. Additionally, NYCM operations and logistics team managed the logistics and volunteer coordination of 69 medical personnel that supported local and international nonprofits throughout the country.
NYC Medics returned to Pakistan in February of ’06, this time dispatched to the other side of the earthquake, focusing on primary care at a small clinic in the Northwest Frontier Province by the border of Afghanistan. Instead of backpacks the teams filled jingle trucks with equipment, and two teams of physicians, medics and nurses treated scores of patients a day. The operation established a thriving care facility providing care to more than ten thousand patients, everything from resuscitating a cardiac arrest to delivering babies.
On the morning of October 8, 2005 an earthquake hit northern Pakistan measuring 7.6 on the Ricther Scale. It killed more than 75,000 people, and left millions homeless. On October 20, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan begged the world for more help, saying, “…a second, massive wave of death will happen if we do not step up our efforts now, with reference to the thousand remote villages in which people are in need of medical attention, food, clean water and shelter and the 120,000 survivors that have not yet been reached.”
A US Navy helicopter dropped NYCM in the village of Seyan – in the Jhelum Valley – the first western team in that area. All roads to the NYCM basecamp were blocked, buried under landslides, and injured survivors were carried in by family members, on homemade litters, miles over mountains. NYCM operated under a tarp, next to the rubbled clinic, and the first day treated more than 400 victims, fractures of every sort, infected wounds, disease and dehydration.
The next day, a mobile medical unit traveled upriver, backpacks stuffed with medical supplies, and set up a satellite clinic, caring for over 200 people a day, on the remnants of an artillery base near the border with India. When the road to Seyan opened, NYCM transferred operations to Doctors Without Borders, and the mobile medical unit hiked even further north. In the little village of Nord Dijhia, residents claimed NYCM were the first westerners they’d seen. Working in the most difficult conditions, often with inadequate equipment, NYCM helped thousands of victims, many who would have perished.