Haiti: The South African perspective
Background and problem statement. The South African response to the Haitian earthquake consisted of two independent nongovernment organisations (NGOs) working separately with minimal contact. Both teams experienced problems during the deployment, mainly owing to not following the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) guidelines. Critical areas identified. To improve future South African disaster responses, three functional deployment categories were identified: urban search and rescue, triage and initial stabilisation, and definitive care. To best achieve this, four critical components need to be taken into account: rapid deployment, intelligence from the site, government facilitation, and working under the auspices of recognised organisations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Conclusion. The proposed way forward for South African medical teams responding to disasters is to be unified under a leading academic body, to have an up-to-date volunteer database, and for volunteers to be current with the international search and rescue course currently being developed by the Medical Working Group of INSARAG. An additional consideration is that South African rescue and relief personnel have a primary responsibility to the citizens of South Africa, then the Southern African Development Community region, then the rest of the African continent and finally further afield. The commitment of government, private and military health services as well as NGOs is paramount for a unified response.