Equally severe natural disasters that hit equally populous areas produce vastly different impacts and outcomes depending on preexisting political and economic conditions. International relief organizations and civil defense disaster response teams employ effective life saving protocols in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. However, there is little information that addresses the ongoing needs or assesses appropriate responses to the persistent hardships and ill health remaining months after a disastrous event hits an impoverished nation. This article relates the experience of27 volunteer health care workers who provided relief care to Nicaraguan victims of Hurricane Mitch three months after the event. Issues addressed include how the disaster exacerbates the everyday suffering of already destitute populations, the inherently arbitrary and difficult nature of trying to determine who are the most affected and medically needy, and how well-meaning international health care providers may inadvertently be counter-productive to long term recovery. Analysis from a critical medical anthropologic perspective reveals how the skills, resources, and expertise of volunteer providers may be more appropriately used to contribute to long term sustainable changes in the health conditions of vulnerable, disaster-affected populations.
International Journal of Global Health
©2001 International Journal of Global Health
"Medical Relief After an Unnatural Disaster: How International Health Care Providers May Prove Counter-Productive to Recovery,"
International Journal of Global Health, 1(2), 6-23.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/ijgh/vol1/iss2/3