New WCPT resources on disaster management are helping inform the physical therapy response to recent earthquakes.
Following the earthquake in Ecuador on 16th April, which destroyed many coastal towns leaving 650 dead and thousands injured, the President of the Ecuadorian Society of Physiotherapy contacted WCPT to say that the earthquake had had devastating consequences in coastal areas, but physical therapists are responding. “The society is organising an unprecedented process in our country for physiotherapy intervention,” said Daniel Wappenstein.
“We know of similar experiences in other countries and we are working with WCPT’s material on the role of physical therapists in disaster management.” WCPT published its comprehensive report The Role of Physical Therapists in Disaster Management in March, and it has already been downloaded over 450 times.
In Japan, two huge earthquakes struck the island of Kyushu on 15th and 16th April, killing at least 48 people and injuring 1,350. The Japanese Physical Therapy Association (JPTA) contributed case studies from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in the report.
WCPT has contacted both member organisations offering support and drawing attention to WCPT resources and also new guidance for rehabilitation professionals interested in responding to disasters published by the aid organisation Handicap International. It was developed in collaboration with WCPT and also the International Spinal Cord Society, the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine and the World Federation for Occupational Therapists.
The brief guidance document, entitled Responding internationally to disasters: a dos and don’ts guide for rehabilitation professionals, shows those who are interested in responding to disasters how to do so as effectively as possible.
“When disasters such as the recent earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador strike, there is always a huge amount of goodwill from rehabilitation professionals around the world who wish to use their skills to support those affected,” said physiotherapist Pete Skelton, Rehabilitation Project Manager at Handicap International, who also co-authored the WCPT disaster management report. He is currently in Ecuador assisting relief efforts.
“This brief guidance highlights key questions to consider, and emphasises that rehabilitation professionals should only respond internationally to disasters as part of established international organisations, or as a member of a registered emergency medical team.”
Meanwhile, the Taiwan Physical Therapy Association has been officially recognised by the city of Tainan’s government for its participation in earthquake rescue efforts. An earthquake hit Southern Taiwan in February, killing 117 and injuring 550. The city of Tainan was particularly badly affected, with a number of buildings collapsing including the Weiguan Jinlong building where 115 people died.