Upstate supports the Ecuador earthquake relief effort; donations being accepted

When Upstate Medical University’s Anna Stewart Ibarra, PhD, traveled to Ecuador last fall to continue her research into a global public health threat, she didn’t expect that she would also be dealing with a natural disaster—an earthquake that left the country in a state of emergency, particularly affecting small coastal fishing villages.

Stewart Ibarra is a faculty member in the Department of Medicine and the director of the Latin America Research Program at Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science. An internationally recognized expert in the ecology of infectious diseases, she has been working in Ecuador for the last nine years and her research includes studies on the environmental and socio-political drivers of the transmission of dengue fever in coastal Ecuador, where dengue is hyper-endemic. She’s been based in Ecuador since last fall working with her partners to develop a prototype for a new device to specifically attract and exterminate Aedes aegypti mosquitos that cause dengue fever and Zika virus, among other diseases.

“After learning of the earthquake, I was concerned about her well-being and contacted her through email,” said David C. Amberg, PhD, vice president for research at Upstate, “I was relieved to hear from her that she and her team were fine and learned that they were mobilizing to help the ground relief efforts in the most affected areas. In her email, she asked if there was any way that Upstate could help.”

That request has resulted in an Ecuador Earthquake Relief effort of the Upstate Foundation, presented in tandem with a local community health NGO (non-governmental organization) in Ecuador. Stewart Ibarra and her field team are overseeing the account to ensure that the donations will be used where most needed.

She says that medical supplies are needed most at this time and that 100 percent of the donations will be used for these purchases. The supplies, she says, are being distributed to the community by her team of volunteers on the ground in Bahia de Caraquez.

In addition to a lack of medical supplies, she also says that there is a shortage of health care professionals to provide medical care and that Ecuador is facing a long-term public health crisis post earthquake.

“There are thousands of people without homes, sleeping outdoors, who need primary medical care, including many vulnerable infants and elderly,” says Stewart Ibarra. “We have partnered with volunteer physicians from all over the world to attend to hundreds of families in a makeshift clinic that we set up at the Sathya Sai school in Bahia de Caraquez. We are grateful to the directors of the school for opening their doors and supporting this endeavor and we thank those who are contributing to the Upstate Ecuador Earthquake Relief effort. We also invite doctors, nurses and other health care providers to consider joining this relief effort as a medical mission.”

According to a recent CNN report, at least 277 people were killed and at least 2,500 others were injured in the worst natural disaster to hit Ecuador since its last major earthquake in 1949. These numbers are expected to rise as the search for survivors continues.

“Upstate has a long-standing relationship with Ecuador, particularly through its Center for Global Health & Translational Science where our researchers collaborate with Ecuadorian researchers on important infectious diseases studies,” Amberg said. “For example, findings from our dengue studies may also translate into a greater understanding of the Zika virus. Our collaborations with Ecuador are very important to us, and to the World’s population. The Ecuador Earthquake Relief effort through the Upstate Foundation is our way of showing our support to a partnering country in its time of need.”

Visit Ecuador Relief Effort to contribute.

Visit Dengue Reddes on Facebook to follow Stewart Ibarra and her team in Ecuador.

Caption: Following the earthquake, Stewart Ibarra registers people seeking medical care at the Sathya Sai school in Bahia de Caraquez. Physicians from Machala, as well as volunteer physicians from across the world have traveled to the area to  provide care.

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