Among the 17 back-to-back bombings that rocked western India this past weekend were two explosions at Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, where many of those injured in the earlier blasts had been taken for emergency treatment. The hospital’s trauma center was damaged in the explosion, but medical providers remained calm and focused during the crisis, which can be attributed in part to their participation in a disaster management training program supported by AmeriCares.
AmeriCares not only responds to disasters but contributes to disaster preparedness initiatives around the world. In India, we are supporting New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in conducting trainings on emergency medicine, trauma care, and disaster preparedness and response for health care professional in the state of Gujarat, where Ahmedabad is the capital city. Last November, a disaster training and drill was held at Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, simulating the emergency response effort that would be needed in the case of bombings resulting in mass casualties. Unfortunately, that was the exact scenario which presented itself at the Civil Hospital on Saturday, when a series of devastating explosions resulted in 49 deaths and more than 110 people injured, including two bomb blasts at the hospital itself.
“This is a tragic reminder of the reason we invest in disaster preparedness work,” says Elizabeth Frank, AmeriCares senior vice president of global programs. “We received word through one of our drill participants that despite the magnitude of the destruction, there was no panic and the medical staff was well-prepared and able to respond well to the high level of activity in the hospital.”
AmeriCares, New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University launched this training program in June 2005. This three-year initiative consists of emergency medicine and disaster preparedness courses and trainings that build on the National Trauma Management Course run by the Academy of Traumatology of India. When completed later this year, it will have trained over 500 health care professionals. The Gujarat Ministry of Health was also a key partner in this initiative.
Over the past 15 years, AmeriCares has been committed to delivering aid to the people of India in response to natural disasters and the ongoing need for access to medicines. During this time, we have worked closely with state governments and leading nonprofit organizations in India to deliver $45 million worth of life-saving medicines and medical supplies.