Humanitarian Health Action

FAQs: Japan tsunami concerns

21 March 2011

What is the health impact of the tsunami?

The immediate health concerns after the rescue of survivors following a natural disaster are drinking water, food, shelter and medical care for injuries. Flood waters can pose health risks, such as contaminated water and food supplies. Winter weather conditions with snow and rain, in addition to lack of shelter and limited power supply, puts individuals at increased risk of diseases and conditions caused by exposure to cold weather.

Traumatic injuries are a primary concern. Injuries such as broken limbs and head injuries caused by the physical impact of people being washed into debris such as houses, trees and other stationary items are common. As the water recedes, the strong suction of debris being pulled into large populated areas can further cause injuries.

The disaster and devastation affecting people, property and livelihood can have a serious impact on the psychological well being of survivors and have a major impact on people's mental health.