TaiwanIHA Medical Team Helps Tsunami Victims in the Solomon Islands

In early April this year, a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the Solomon Islands, causing severe damage to the area. Taiwan International Health Action (TaiwanIHA) immediately dispatched a medical mission to this country. The team initially took with it more than 300 kilograms of medicine and first aid equipment. Water and food from Honiara were also obtained for medical services to victims in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.
Taiwan also donated US$200,000 and 1,000 kilograms of rice to the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society (SIRCS) for use in emergency relief in provinces affected by the tsunami. The doctors are Taiwan’s latest form of support for the nation.
Three medical doctors from TaiwanIHA rushed to Gizo to work at a makeshift hospital. They kept in contact with rescue teams from the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, Australia, Japan and Canada. They also partook in a multilateral rescue conference organized by the Solomon Islands Emergency Operations Centre.
One of the TaiwanIHA medical doctors, Dr. Chen Hou-chang (an orthopedic surgeon), treated many patients suffering from hemoarthritis (knee inflammation), open wounds and dislocated joints. Dr. Tseng Shu-chuan (also a surgeon) helped check the health of many women and prescribe medicines for them.
Dr. Chou Mei-chu, an experienced public health expert, supervised the interim hospital area as well as the settlements for the displaced people on the hillsides of Gizo. After monitoring the overall public health situation, she instructed the residents to watch local sanitation, and keep the drinking water and food away from human waste and garbage.
The team was escorted by a staff member from the Taiwan Embassy and an agricultural expert from the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM). Owing to food and water shortages, catering for the medical staff at a disaster area is a very important task for such care is necessary to the functions and performance of the medical team. Mr. Tsai, an agricultural expert, and another resident Taiwanese contributed greatly to the preparation of meals and drinks for the team.
During their mission, a Taiwanese fishing vessel carrying Taiwan’s medical team together with Red Cross workers from New Zealand and the Solomon Islands became stranded on a reef. It is suspected that the reef might have risen during the recent earthquake. The Solomon Islands declared April 12 a national day of mourning for the 43 people killed after the magnitude 8.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami that ripped through coastal villages earlier this month. Another 7,000 people have been left homeless. The Taiwanese fishing vessel had been returning to the western town of Gizo after delivering aid supplies to outlying islands when it struck the reef. Fortunately, a US Navy helicopter, which was also assisting with tsunami relief nearby, managed to rescue everyone on board. This highlights the spirit of Taiwan’s rescue team – keep going, even if it means putting yourself at risk.
The three TaiwanIHA medical staff members then returned to Honiara to help look after the more seriously injured patients at National Referral Hospital (NRH).
The members of the medical team sacrificed their Tomb-Sweeping Festival holiday, which happens to fall on the Easter holiday, to join the rescue mission. In the end, they even put their lives in danger during the rescue efforts. After hearing about this, the people and government of the Solomon Islands expressed their deep gratitude for their kind assistance. TaiwanIHA and the Taiwan embassy have promised to continue to offer every support possible to help relieve the difficulties of the victims. They also hope to assist in the reconstruction and recovery of the areas hit by the tsunami. This shows clearly how Taiwan, unlike other countries, prefers direct participation in humanitarian aid to checkbook diplomacy.
Taiwan International Health Action (TaiwanIHA) was founded on March 30, 2006. Through it, the public and private sectors of Taiwan can join forces to actively participate in major international endeavors for disaster relief and medical aid. TaiwanIHA was there to help after deadly landslides struck the Philippines last February. It was also there after earthquakes hit Indonesia last May and this March. Likewise, TaiwanIHA assisted in relief efforts for the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in eastern Kenya last December.
TaiwanIHA is becoming an important partner of humanitarian healthcare groups worldwide. In the future, through cooperation between TaiwanIHA and its global partners, we can expect to move a step closer to the ideals of « healthcare transcending all national boundaries » and of « no gaps being allowed in disease prevention and disaster relief. »