On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated metropolitan Port au Prince and surrounding areas and resulted in widespread injury, mortality and displacement. This study aimed to estimate the injury rate among the affected population and the resulting demand of emergency medical care in the aftermath of the earthquake.
In January 2011, a cross-sectional stratified cluster (60×20 household) survey of the earthquake-affected population in metropolitan Port au Prince was conducted to assess their well-being, unmet needs and perceptions of humanitarian assistance one year post-earthquake. Mixed effects simple and multiple logistic regressions were used to measure the total unadjusted and adjusted odds of injury.
A total of 261 injuries were reported in the pre-earthquake population of 6489 individuals with reported injury status. The overall earthquake injury rate was estimated at 40.2 injuries/1000 (CI: 35.6-45.3). Individual characteristics such as age, gender, and education status were not significantly associated with risk of injury. Elevated injury rates were observed among households residing in camps at 46.7/1000 (CI: 39.7-54.5) as compared to those in neighbourhoods where the injury rate was 33.7/1000 (CI: 27.8-40.5) (p=0.018). Extrapolation of the survey injury rate to the affected population yields an estimated 124,577 earthquake injuries (range 110,048-140,033) which is substantially lower than the 300,000 reported injuries.
Estimates of the injury burden in disasters in lower- and middle-income countries is essential for disaster preparedness and response planning in future natural disasters. Given the difficulties in reporting injuries in emergencies, including both challenges of aggregating information and lack of standardized definitions and inclusion/exclusion criteria for injuries that are not severe, ascertaining the injury burden of disasters will be a persistent challenge.