TaiwanIHA’s medical relief effort in Peru
Master Sheng Yen, Dharma Drum Mountain’s relief team, earthquake Peru, August 2007
Braving heavy rain and strong wind, the 5 members of Taiwan International Health Action (TaiwanIHA) emergency medical relief team were rushed to the airport to embark on the airplane to Peru despite imminent arrival of Setpa typhoon in the evening of August 17, 2007. (The airports of Taiwan were closed the next day due to typhoon.)
At 6:41 in the evening of August 15 (August 16, Taipei time), 2007, Peru was heavily hit by an earthquake of 8 on the Richter scale. According to media reports, more than 450 people died, thousands were injured and 80,000 left homeless in the hardest-hit city Pisco. Electricity, water and communications were lost as well.
After confirming and assessing the result of the disaster, TaiwanIHA immediately dispatched its emergency medical team to Peru. The five-member medical team includes Chief of Medics, Dr. Chen Hou-Chaung (an orthopedic surgeon from Taichung Hospital), Dr. Ker Cheng-Chin (a physician from Taipei Hospital), Ms. Shin Yi-Jen (registered nurse at Taipei Hospital), Ms. Lien Shu-Fen (public health specialist) and Mr. Lee Szu-Min, the chief of administration at TaiwanIHA. They brought 8 boxes of medical supplies and traveled over 20 hours to arrive in Peru in the afternoon on August 18. Wasting no time, upon arrival, the team immediately proceeded to the town of Pisco preparing to work. TaiwanIHA was the first foreign medical relief team to arrive and it was also the only such team from Asia.
At the dawn of August 19, the team proceeded to the village of San Clemente and commenced its work. Nearly 200 patients were treated on that same day. Treatments included trauma, broken bones, fractures, flu and asthma. Aside from stationed consultation service, the team also walked into the community to offer medical assistance to the old and disabled patients. The team was also entrusted by the hospital to distribute dry- hand- cleanser to the workers and chefs of 27 temporary community kitchens for improving hygienic standards under the circumstances of lacking water.
On August 20, the ”Taiwanese Businessmen Association in Peru” donated half a container of food to the World Vision, and the other half to the people of disaster-striken area of San Clemente. On August 22, the delegation from the “ Dharma Drum Mountain Foundation”, a Buddhist charity group of Taiwan founded by Venerable Master Sheng Yen , arrived with the supply worthy of US $ 100,000. The three groups from Taiwan worked hand in hand providing material aid as well as comfort to the victims of the earthquake. They were heartily welcomed and cheered by the locals.
The TaiwanIHA medical team accomplished its eight-day humanitarian mission of medical relief and returned to Taiwan in the evening of August 28. In the Press Conference at TaiwanIHA on the next day, a reporter asked team members what was their deepest impression from the mission, “It was quite impressive to see those people, especially the children remain with smiling faces in such a desperate environment. Their smiles dispelled all the fatigue and difficulties we encountered, and they were worth all the efforts we made.” said Mr. Lee.
Because of the immediate assistance and the enthusiasm demonstrated in the humanitarian works, the medical team of TaiwanIHA received much appreciation and admiration by locals as well as the recognition of other international humanitarian organizations.
In addition to TaiwanIHA’s contribution, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) also donated US$100,000 to the government of Peru. The Tzchi Foundation, Buddhist Compassion Relief founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, is organizing a team to evaluate the ways of participating in the post-disaster reconstruction.
The mission carried out by TaiwanIHA and other groups from Taiwan is meaningful and it proves that Taiwan is ready to render its assistance to those who is in need regardless of the distance.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), an integrating center of information relating to major international disasters and humanitarian assistance, along with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),listed TaiwanIHA as one of the international relief organizations participating the relief work in Peru.