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How Humanitarian Aid Workers Can Protect Their Health While in Ecuador

Pre-Travel Health Care

As soon as possible, schedule a visit with a travel medicine specialist, who can provide vaccines, medicines, and advice on how to stay safe and healthy while you are traveling. You should also plan a visit with your regular doctor to make sure you’re physically fit for the demands of the work. If you’ll be gone for a long time, a dental check-up before you leave is a good idea as well.

Zika in Ecuador

Ecuador, along with many other countries in South America, is experiencing an outbreak of Zika. Humanitarian aid workers are at higher risk for Zika because they may stay in tents or shelters that mosquitoes can get into, or because they may spend a lot of time outdoors. CDC has issued a level 2 travel notice for Zika advising pregnant women not to go to areas of Ecuador below 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) in elevation. There are also special recommendations for men with pregnant partners and women who are planning to become pregnant and their partners.

Aid work can be demanding, and medical facilities in disaster areas are often strained or nonexistent. Therefore, if you have a serious chronic illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, consider whether there are other ways for you to support the cause.

Avoiding Injury in a Disaster Area

Injuries and motor vehicle accidents are common risks anywhere in the world, but especially so in a disaster area. To avoid motor vehicle crash injuries, select safe transportation and always wear a seatbelt. Be sensitive to possible physical dangers, such as debris, unstable buildings, and downed power lines.

What to Pack

Humanitarian aid workers often need to pack more than other travelers, especially if they are going to be in an area where supplies are limited and the water supply is compromised. In addition to your travel health kit, consider whether you might need any of the following:

  • First-aid supplies
  • Water filter or purification tablets
  • Nonperishable food
  • Gloves (rubber or leather)
  • Bed net
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses
  • Toilet paper
  • Sewing kit
  • Laundry detergent
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Candles and matches or lighter
  • Zip-top bags
  • Safety goggles

Humanitarian aid work is stressful, and taking along a personal item, such as a family photo, can be comforting. You should also bring photocopies of important documents, such as your passport and medical license.

After You Return

Get medical care if you were injured during your trip or become ill after returning. Make sure your doctor knows that you recently returned from doing earthquake relief work in Ecuador. More than 30% of aid workers report depression after returning home, so take time to rest and readjust. If you continue to feel depressed, you may wish to seek counseling.