Posted by: calloftheandes | March 30, 2012

Team’s Flood Zone Response Centers on Medicine, the Gospel

Hermann Schirmacher helping families in Limón, Ecuador.

On a flooded road in Ecuador’s coastal province of Manabí, Hermann Schirmacher thought his engine might die. By pumping the clutch and gas pedals almost simultaneously he kept the engine alive and arrived in Limón, a coastal town where he’d agreed to hold a mobile medical clinic.

Upon reaching Limón, the HCJB Global Hands medical team needed a different finesse equal to that of Schirmacher’s behind the wheel. Requested by a congresswoman to offer clinics to flood victims, they were soon navigating local political currents—or so it seemed. Schirmacher serves in HCJB Global’s Healthcare Division in Latin America.

Specifically, controversies swirled around the authorities’ decision to release waters held by a dam called La Esperanza (hope). As Hospital Vozandes-Quito and Radio Station HCJB are purposely nonpolitical, team members fixed their focus on medical work. The five-person crew waited while Ecuadorian Congresswoman Sylvia Kon conducted a press conference in Calceta.

Following the release of a reservoir several days earlier, news accounts had compared Calceta’s flooded streets to those of Venice. The standing waters at nearby Limón had begun to recede by the time the team arrived from Quito on Tuesday, March 27.

Around mid-morning, progress toward patient care moved ahead as effectively as the team’s Hyundai van had earlier been coaxed onward. By late evening that same day, Drs. Steve Nelson and Paulina Roldán and an intern, Juan Diego Salazar, had seen 170 patients. Most complained of skin problems (due to continued exposure to water) and upper respiratory infections.

The pace at their makeshift clinic in a Limón school didn’t allow for lengthy conversations. However, having ministered in several disaster zones throughout the years, Nelson found that “the Lord always seems to give the opportunity to listen and suggest other sources of peace and joy … especially in the midst of these kinds of disasters.” He specifically cited “praying with a mother and daughter, and leading some others to the Psalms.”

The following day at Estancia Vieja (near Portoviejo) some 187 patients manifested similar symptoms as those in Limón: skin issues, parasites and fungi. Schirmacher happily witnessed the same congresswoman talking with people and helping with whatever needed to be done to conduct a mobile medical clinic. “Almost no political activity was visible around us,” he observed.

An area mayor, Ramón González Álava, said when level of the reservoir behind the dam came within 4.5 feet of overflowing, authorities released the waters at a rate of 164 cubic yards per second. The depth of the reservoir had even surpassed levels reached in 1998 when heavy rains related to the El Niño effect buffeted Ecuador’s coast.

Twenty people have died in the flooding with thousands forced to flee to government shelters. The Rafael Correa administration has decreed a state of emergency for six of Ecuador’s provinces.

The administration of President Rafael Correa has decreed a state of emergency for six of Ecuador’s provinces.

A Reuters video by Michaela Cabrera is available by clicking here.


  1. […] in the effort as much as we can, and then serve out in the community.” He sees a contrast to his disaster response work in 2012 after flooding in Ecuadorian coastal provinces. “Before, we [Reach Beyond] were the hub of the disaster […]

  2. […] whose disaster response team in 2012 responded to flooding in Ecuador, said he was tipped to Hospital Guasti’s need by Radio Station’s HCJB’s Edwin Chamorro after […]

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