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Foreign field hospitals after the 2010 Haiti earthquake: how good were we?
  1. Martin Gerdin,
  2. Andreas Wladis,
  3. Johan von Schreeb
  1. Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Johan von Schreeb, Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels Väg 9, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden; johan.von.schreeb{at}


Objective To assess the timing and activities of foreign field hospitals (FFH) deployed during the first month after the Haiti earthquake and to evaluate adherence to WHO/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) guidelines. Results were compared with data from past sudden-onset disasters.

Methods A systematic attempt was made to contact all relief actors within the health care sector involved in the 12 January through 12 February 2010 FFH deployment. This was done using an email-based questionnaire and a web survey. In addition, the authors undertook a literature review using PubMed and the Google search engine between March 2010 and May 2011. The authors contacted key informants and agencies identified by direct observations in the field by email or phone.

Results A total of 44 FFH were identified. The first FFH was operational on day two post-earthquake. The number of FFH beds peaked at about 3300 on day 17 post-earthquake. During the first month, the authors estimate that FFH conducted no more than 12 000 major surgical operations. While 25% of the FFH adhered to either WHO/PAHO first essential deployment requirements, none followed both requirements of WHO/PAHO. Compared with the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, twice as many FFH provided medical care, resulting in three times more FFH beds.

Conclusions The present study suggests that more FFH were sent to Haiti than to any previous sudden-onset disasters, but due to lack of data and transparency it remains impossible to determine to what extent did the first wave of FFH do any good in Haiti.

  • Accident prevention
  • emergency care systems
  • remote and rural medicine
  • intensive care
  • major incident
  • planning
  • management
  • quality assurance
  • trauma
  • research

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  • Funding This study was funded by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare through their support to the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters at Karolinska Institutet. The funder had no influence on study design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, writing the report or on the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.