Three major earthquakes have struck Ecuador since 16th April. Photo: Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Fisioterapia
Three major earthquakes have struck Ecuador since 16th April. Photo: Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Fisioterapia

Physical therapists continue aid effort following Ecuador earthquakes

The Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Fisioterapia (SEF) has announced a second field trip for physical therapist volunteers to help the injured and homeless along Ecuador's Pacific coast.

On 16th April the worst earthquake in decades destroyed towns in the northern coastal region, killing at least 659 people and leaving more than 27,000 injured and displaced. This week two additional earthquakes struck the province of Esmereldas and the coastal town Mompiche, cutting power, closing schools, and multiplying the scale of the disaster.

The first earthquake destroyed homes, bridges, and roads, creating an immediate need for food, water and shelters organised by the Ecuadorian government and the United Nations.

So far a team of six SEF volunteer physical therapists have been working in Jama, a town in Manabi, providing respiratory care and pre- and post-surgical support to children and the elderly. The team also worked to gather information before creating middle- and long-term goals for physical therapy.

Physical therapist Daniel Wappenstein treats earthquake survivors in Jama, Ecuador Daniel Wappenstein, president of the Ecuadorian Society of Physiotherapy, treats an earthquake survivor in Jama

"We confirmed the need for respiratory therapy for children and elderly people in the shelters," says SEF President Daniel Wappenstein. "Respiratory therapy was one of the first areas we could work in, preparing the community for prevention."

The second field trip brings new volunteers to Jama to develop the support programme and build upon the lessons of the first trip.

"The second field trip is much more organised from the logistic, technical and psychological point of view," says Wappenstein. "Living together in the first days was challenging, but the therapists reacted strongly and we quickly became a consolidated team."

Volunteer physical therapists treat the injured and homeless in EdcuadorVolunteer physical therapists will continue to support civilians and train humanitarian aid workers

The SEF team has also been training local physical therapists in disaster management, working with staff from all organisations involved in the relief effort.

The SEF approach has been guided by WCPT disaster management resources, including its new report on the role of physical therapy in disaster management.

The earthquakes in Ecuador are the strongest of several major earthquakes to occur worldwide this year. In February and April major quakes struck in southern Taiwan and the Japanese island of Kyushu, killing and injuring thousands of people.

Related to this story