In the days following the seismic activity of September 19, MFS emergency response teams identified respiratory problems, as well as aggravations of chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, and psychosomatic symptoms, as the main medical conditions found in Puebla’s population.
However, the priorities of affected individuals were mostly linked to the total loss of their belongings and, in many cases, to the death of family members and neighbours which, as these are small communities, had an enormous impact on all residents; hence the relevance of individual and group mental health interventions provided by MSF.
MSF ran its community health promotion and mental health activities in different spaces of public congregation, such as schools, shelters, churches, health centers, culture centers, DIFs, and sports centers. The teams carried out a variety of educational and sports activities to reach the youth that is most reluctant to receive support, as well as strategies intended to support the youngest who had symptoms such as frequent crying, constant fear, enuresis, and others. Among the adult population, there were symptoms such as loss of appetite or sleep, fear, feelings of vulnerability and irritability.
MSF teams were mainly located in two regions of the state. In the southern area, MSF set up base in the municipality of Tehuitzingo, from where it deployed mobile units to visit the most remote surrounding communities. The other team was established in the municipality of Atlixco, on the northern area of the state, to provide care in the municipality’s capital and the local communities.
MSF provided 1544 medical care consultations, and 1450 mental health consultations, while health promotion activities reached six thousand people. The organisation distributed nearly 150 tarpaulins for shelter, and 200 kits containing basic tools for cooking, hygiene, cover and, in some cases, specific products for babies and toddlers. Also, MSF donated about 20 tents for some of the most affected communities. In the communities where the organisation's teams assessed the need to continue medical and mental health support, activities were transferred to other organisations still present in the area.
MSF was able to help each community differently, understanding that each one is a different challenge, with its particular traits, its own traditions, and different resource.
“MSF was able to help each community differently, understanding that each one is a different challenge, with its particular traits, its own traditions, and different resource. Therefore, being able to identify the needs and attempting to read those specific resources to achieve a timely and efficient response made a huge difference for MSF’s work in this emergency response in Mexico,” says Lina Villa Ruiz, MSF coordinator.
In the State of Oaxaca, strongly affected by the two earthquakes of September, the organisation’s teams provided medical care, mental health care and psychosocial activities. MSF carried out psychological first aid training for strategic health staff, volunteers, community leaders, and community teachers, mainly in the region of Juchitan.
MSF teams were able to visit, on several occasions, towns that are very hard to reach, such as Santa Maria del Mar, Ixhuatán, San Francisco del Mar, Rio Viejo, San Mateo del Mar, San Dioniosio del Mar, Ixtepec, Ixtaltepec and Juchitan de Zaragoza to provide individual mental health support through psychosocial strategies and interventions tailored to the needs of the affected population.
Interventions have been individual in those cases that were identified as necessary, but the largest number of interventions have been group support sessions, where different crucial themes for the psychoeducation in normal emotional reactions to an earthquake have been discussed, such as the meaning of home, mourning, conflict resolution, etc. As well as working together with community leaders. During the response, MSF constantly assessed the situation and deployed mobile clinics.
The population is attempting to return to a sort of normality, but it’s very difficult given the context, as the ground has not yet stopped trembling.
“In the State of Oaxaca, in the various municipalities around Juchitan, we have found an even more complex situation, due to the enormous damages of the first earthquake, that caused many houses to collapse and weakened those that resisted, which are at risk of collapsing at all time,” explains Bertrand Rossier, Head of Mission for MSF in Mexico. “The population is attempting to return to a sort of normality, but it’s very difficult given the context, as the ground has not yet stopped trembling (2-5 earthquakes per day). This is preventing them from returning to their homes, since they are afraid that stronger earthquake could hit at any time. For this same reason, a large part of the population is still sleeping outdoors, near their homes” he adds. MSF has provided direct care for 5403 people and provided 244 medical consultations in support of these populations that were highly affected by the catastrophe.
At the end of October, humanitarian medical activities in response to the needs of emotional stabilisation and mental health in San Miguel Tecomatlán, in the State of Mexico, and Xochimilco, in Mexico City ended. In Xochimilco, activities were performed in community areas, such as elementary schools, health centers, and parishes in the communities of San Gregorio and Santa Cruz Acalpixca, with the participation of academic personnel, health personnel, and community members.
In San Miguel Tecomatlán, in the State of México, MSF activities were performed in the community square and at shelters, health centers, and the Care Center for Victims of Violence, with the participation of health personnel, mutual support groups, and groups of teenagers, and community and civil society promoters. Support activities through individual consultations, group sessions and capacity building by MSF teams were able to reach 1229 beneficiaries.
In Jojutla, State of Morelos, MSF focused on providing psychological first aid training for health jurisdiction personnel, mental health promoters, community teachers and leaders. Group sessions and psychoeducation activities were focused on the youth and student population, as well as among neighbors of the most affected neighborhoods, providing support by strengthening healthy coping tools. MSF accompanied the families that had to face the demolition of their homes.
In Morelos, MSF has performed activities in the municipalities of Jojutla, Mazatepec, Ocuituco, Puente de Ixtla (community of Tilzapotla and Xoxocotla), Tlaquiltenango (Community of Manzanares), Tetela del Volcán, and Tlayacapan (Community of Nacatongo) where 5091 persons of the community have been assisted, including healthcare professional and teachers.