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Chinese Doctors Assist Homeless at Haitian Shelter Camp

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A 40-strong Chinese medical team is aiding Haitians made homeless in last month's major earthquake at one of Haiti's biggest shelter camps.

The team was supplying care for Haitians at a medical tent set up at Mays Gate, a public park that has become an emergency shelter for 15,000 people.

The team offered four medical specialities in two shifts at the site, the second base for the team since they arrived 10 days ago. The doctors replaced a military search and rescue team that had recovered bodies from the headquarters of the UN mission in Haiti.

"The trauma in the quake are similar to those seen in (China's) Sichuan," said Senior Colonel Liu Wendou, who heads the team that had served in the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008.

"They tend to have serious physical injures, anxiety and nervousness because of the quake," Liu said, adding that many Haitians also suffer malnutrition and chronic diseases due to poverty.

The most common problems are fevers, respiratory illnesses and rashes associated with insanitary living conditions.

Last week, a team member at the site told Xinhua that residents did not have toilets and many returned to houses made shaky by the quake.

Unlike the situation in Sichuan where the government had airlifted the most severe patients out of the quake area, in Haiti patients in similar conditions remained where they were because the Haitian government appeared not to have the resources to move them and it took time to coordinate the large number of organizations that rushed to Haiti to help.

"Coordination was difficult. With so many organizations on the ground it is hard to make an efficient response," said Liu, the team leader.

In the Sichuan quake, the central government coordinated relief efforts and was able to quickly draw on modern facilities from across the large nation.

Haiti, by contrast, has a very limited territory. Its systems were severely strained by the deaths of around 200,000 citizens and the displacement of a further 1.5 million.

"Solving Haiti's medical problems is definitely something for the long term," said Liu, whose unit had been in Liberia for a year as part of a UN operation. "The health and sanitation systems remain at a very immature stage.

(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2010)