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South Asia massive and urgent health needs: thousands of injured people require immediate help

10 OCTOBER 2005 | GENEVA/ISLAMABAD -- The World Health Organization reports that several hospitals and health facilities have been completely destroyed by the earthquake in south Asia, and that many health workers - including doctors and nurses - have died or been seriously injured. This devastation has created major obstacles in urgently helping the thousands of injured people to get the medical care they need. The situation is particularly bad in the affected areas of Pakistan.

Search and rescue efforts continue to be a priority - to find those who are still living under the rubble and get them medical attention. Clearing roads is also critical, in order to deliver essential medicines, food, blankets and shelter to people.

The water and sanitation system is also heavily damaged, with water supplies and sanitation lines destroyed. Clean water and safe sanitation are needed urgently to avoid the risk of diarrhoeal diseases.

Measles is also endemic in the region and just 60 per cent of children are protected. In order to prevent a measles epidemic, at least 90 per cent coverage is needed. If displaced people group together in temporary housing, a mass measles vaccination campaign will be necessary. Measles vaccines are needed in order to start vaccination campaigns.

"It is clear that the health infrastructure in the affected areas has either been severely damaged or completely destroyed," said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Representative of the Director-General for Health Action in Crises. "We need to coordinate a massive health relief effort to ensure people get urgent care, and to prevent a bad situation from getting even worse. Medical supplies, water and sanitation supplies and cash donations will help the most."

WHO has conducted an initial assessment and confirms the need for surgical and trauma equipment. WHO is providing sufficient essential medicines and medical supplies to cover the needs of 210 000 people for one month. In addition, WHO is also sending enough medicines and surgical equipment to perform 1000 surgeries.

In addition to the country team in Islamabad, WHO has sent 60 staff to the field to assist with public health, epidemiology, water and sanitation logistics, and mental health. WHO will continue to provide people as needs are identified.

Several field hospitals have been offered by donors. WHO stresses that the provision of health relief supplies must be coordinated so that the right supplies arrive efficiently in the right locations. A joint WHO/Ministry of Health Central Operations Centre has been set up in Islamabad to coordinate health response with other health partners.

Bodies do not cause disease

WHO reminds the humanitarian community that treating survivors and ensuring their basic needs is critical at this stage. The recovery of bodies is also important - but WHO stresses that bodies are generally not the source of disease.

Related links

WHO is grateful for the donations to date:
  • The British Government has donated US$ 252 000 for WHO support to the disaster response.
  • The Swiss Government has donated US$ 100 000 for WHO support to the disaster response.
  • The Norwegian Government has donated US$ 250 000 for WHO to support to the disaster response.
  • The Principality of Monaco has donated EURO 25 000 for WHO to support the disaster response.
  • The Italian Government has donated EURO 250 000 for WHO support to the disaster response.

*The costs for health needs and other humanitarian assistance will be announced tomorrow in a joint UN appeal.

For more information contact:

Marko Kokic
Information Officer
Health Action in Crises
WHO Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 24 48
Mobile phone: +41 79 217 34 11