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Emerg Med J. 2013 Jan;30(1):e8. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2011-200717. Epub 2012 Mar 7.

Foreign field hospitals after the 2010 Haiti earthquake: how good were we?

Author information

  • 1Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels Väg 9, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. johan.von.schreeb@ki.se



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.


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.


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.


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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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