When the Tsunami struck Asia on 26 December 2004, Aceh, Indonesia suffered more damage than did any other region. After the Tsunami, many humanitarian organizations provided aid in Aceh. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), along with the Indonesian and Norwegian Red Cross opened a field hospital in Banda Aceh on 16 January 2005. This study describes the illnesses seen in the out-patient department/casualty department (OPD/CD) of the ICRC hospital nine weeks after the Tsunami. It describes the percentage of people seen for problems directly related to the Tsunami, and includes a basic screening for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A prospective, five-day study was performed from 01–05 March 2005. Patients registering in the ICRC field hospital in Banda Aceh were considered for the study. Data collected included: (1) age; (2) gender; (3) diagnosis in the OPD/CD; and (4) whether or not the problem was related directly to the Tsunami. Seven basic questions were asked to screen for depression and PTSD symptoms.
Twelve percent of the problems seen in the OPD/CD nine weeks after the Tsunami still were related directly to the Tsunami. Sixty-three percent of patients in the study were male. The medical problems included: (1) urological (19%); (2) digestive (16%); (3) respiratory (12%); and (4) musculoskeletal (12%). Although <2% of patients were diagnosed with a mental health problem, 24% had at least four or more of the seven depression/PTSD symptoms addressed in the study.
Post-earthquake and post-tsunami health problems and medical needs differ from those found in conflict zones. After the Tsunami, both surgical and primary healthcare teams were needed. Many problems were chronic medical problems, which may be indicative of the lack of healthcare infrastructure before the Tsunami. The findings suggest that mental health issues must be taken into consideration for future planning. The ethical issues of performing research in complex emergencies also need further development at the international level.