Earthquake ruins in Pisco, Peru
Earthquake destruction in Pisco, Peru

A rapid-response medical team from Socios En Salud (SES), PIH’s sister organization in Peru, has found widespread destruction but no confirmed deaths among our patients in the area devastated by a powerful earthquake. The quake destroyed the homes of more than half of our 115 patients in the region south of Lima and several lost at least one family member. Most have no access to clean water or electricity. SES continues to search for a number of patients who have not yet been located, even as we mobilize medicine and other emergency supplies for those who have.

On Wednesday, August 15, a tremor registering 7.9 on the Richter scale leveled 85 percent of the buildings in the coastal town of Pisco, Peru, killing more than 500 people and leaving 100,000 homeless. By the next day, SES had dispatched a team of doctors, nurses, and community health workers to the scene. Their mission: to find all of our patients in the area being treated for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and the SES staff who cared for them; to make sure their treatment is not interrupted; and to assess what will be needed to help our patients and the community get back on their feet. Although slowed by the collapsed bridge connecting Pisco to the Pan American highway, the SES team was among the first to arrive ready to provide relief, guidance, and a little bit of hope to survivors.

 SES consults
A member of the SES team (right) consults with hospital staff in Pisco

They found a scene of devastation. All that remains of the Pisco city hospital is a pile of rubble. The larger regional hospital was also severely damaged. Tents have been pitched in the courtyard to treat the injured. Those health centers that are still standing have no water or electricity. Many have already run out of basic medications including ibuprofen and antibiotics. SES was able to contribute badly needed medicine, food, clothing, and blankets. The team also met with the regional hospital’s TB team in order to determine how best to continue patient care. 

Immediately after returning to Lima on August 19 (bringing two seriously injured victims with them), the SES team started preparing a second group for what they would find when they returned to Pisco a few days later. 

“People have lost everything," warned Dr. Leonid Lecca, SES Coordinator of Clinical Projects and a member of the team of first responders. "It’s one thing to see all of this on the news, but it’s another to be there. Pisco looked as though it’s been bombed, and they keep finding more victims in the debris.”

 SES staff distribute emergency supplies
SES staff members (center) help distribute emergency supplies to earthquake victims in Pisco

Just a week after the earthquake hit, on August 22, the second SES team arrived in Pisco and the surrounding towns, where they will continue to search for missing patients and their families.  When they are found, we will ensure that they have the medications, supplies, and support they need to rebuild their lives. 

We are gratefully accepting donations to help us in these efforts. To make an online donation for earthquake relief efforts, click here to go to a secure server at Entango, our online donations partner, and select “Peru Earthquake Relief” in the drop-down menu for “Program.” 

Contributions can also be made by check.  Please specify “for earthquake relief” in the memo line and send them to:

Partners in Health
Attention: Rachel Ross, Peru Project Manager
641 Huntington Ave
Boston MA 02115

[published August 2007]