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WHO calls for more funds for health to avoid 2nd wave of deaths from Pakistan earthquake

Funds for health have so far saved lives and reduced suffering

Hundreds of thousands of people affected by the earthquake in Pakistan face the unnecessary risks of death, illness and further injury as winter approaches. People need shelter, safe drinking water and access to health care now and throughout the winter in order to survive.

The earthquake and aftershocks have killed over 53 000 people and injured an estimated 75 000, including many health staff. The latest available assessments show that 291 health facilities have been destroyed and 74 partially damaged of a total of 564 in the area. Less than half continue to operate.

The World Health Organization (WHO), with other health partners, is taking action and has already made a difference with the help of timely donations. Tens of thousands of people have had access to surgery, medicines, vaccination and other public health measures care.

To expand access to health care for the thousands who still need it now, to provide health care throughout the winter, and to prevent and respond to any outbreaks, WHO is appealing for a total of US$ 27.57 million, as part of the revised United Nations Appeal. So far, US$ 11 million has been pledged to WHO since 8 October.

"Without more help now, the second wave of deaths in Pakistan is coming. We cannot wait to see images of people freezing to death or dying of preventable disease before we act. With the money received so far, WHO, its partners and the Ministry of Health have made a difference to people's lives. The revised appeal will scale-up WHO's support," said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Representative of the Director-General for Health Action in Crises.

The revised appeal will increase WHO's support to the Ministry of Health in tackling four vital areas of health.

Increased access to health care

To date, tens of thousands of people have received medical treatment at civil and military health facilities but many people with major medical and surgical needs in remote areas are still being found. People with complicated injuries will need follow-up care and people with chronic disease such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease need access to regular treatment.

WHO has already sent supplies and medicines to meet the healthcare needs of 270 000 people for one month. More medical and surgical supplies are in the pipeline.

Preventing disease and suffering

Poor water quality and lack of adequate sanitation has increased the risk of communicable diseases such as diarrhoeal illness and measles. To quickly spot outbreaks and prevent epidemics, WHO has supported the Ministry of Health to build a disease surveillance system involving over 200 medical experts and staff. The disease surveillance system will be expanded to all affected areas.

As a preventive measure WHO and UNICEF are supporting the Ministry of Health and other health partners in vaccination campaigns against tetanus and measles. Over 50 000 children have been vaccinated so far. More vaccines and other supplies are currently being made available.

Addressing mental health needs

Many of the 3.5 million people affected by the earthquake have experienced extreme loss - of their homes, family and livelihoods The fact that many bodies have not been and may never be recovered is also a source of mental distress.

Based on the experience of previous disasters, severe mental disorders (psychosis, severe depression, and anxiety disorders) may be seen in between 3-4% of the affected population. In the Pakistan earthquake situation this means 120 000-160 000 persons may need treatment for severe mental disorders. Up to 15% or 600 000 may be expected to suffer from mild and moderate mental disorders.

In response to the increased need for mental health and psychosocial support, WHO is working closely with the Ministry of Health and other partners to train mental health workers in providing psychological care to earthquake survivors. The Ministry of Health has already deployed four teams of specialists to the most affected areas.

Health coordination

WHO, through its network of national and expatriate staff in Islamabad and five field offices in Muzaffarabad, Mansehra, Balakot, Bagh and Rawalakot continues to support the Ministry of Health in coordinating with dozens of health actors already operating in the affected areas.

To help humanitarian actors better target their health interventions, WHO has created a website link www.whopak.org/disaster/ containing practical health information such as guidelines for best practices, lists medical supply needs and situation reports. WHO continues to answer health queries through an email address health@whopak.org and a hotline telephone service Tel: +92 51 250 5176 / 926 3240.

The revised WHO Appeal is part of the larger United Nations Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP): Flash Appeal 2005 for South Asia Earthquake seeking a total of US$ 549 585 941 for six months.

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For more information contact:

Dr Fadéla Chaib
Director-General’s Office/Media and Communications
WHO/Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3228
Mobile phone: +41 79 477 1738
E-mail: chaibf@who.int

Chris Black
Communications Officer
Islamabad
Telephone: +88 216 51 191 015
Mobile phone: +41 79 472 60 54