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US$ 28 million needed for Myanmar health-care plan

News release

WHO and its Health Cluster partners in Myanmar have launched a six-month and US$ 28 million action plan to provide immediate health care for cyclone survivors and to support longer-term efforts to rebuild the country’s ravaged health system.

The Health Cluster Joint Plan of Action addresses the health needs of communities affected by Cyclone Nargis in the Ayeyarwady Delta region and Yangon, with a particular focus on people living in temporary shelters and relocation sites.

The objectives of the plan of action are to:

  • assess and monitor health needs and strengthen disease surveillance;
  • respond to outbreaks and other health threats, strengthen disease control and fill gaps critical to delivering health care;
  • strengthen and repair support systems, such as telecommunications and waste disposal, and improve skills and knowledge of health workers; and
  • engage national and international partners to coordinate a joint health sector response.

“Building back better is the guiding principle of the joint action plan," said Dr Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General - Health Action in Crises, and head of the Global Health Cluster effort established to respond to the Myanmar crisis. The cluster will respond to critical and life-threatening gaps in the health-care system and help strengthen and repair health infrastructure.

“We must help repair and revitalize Myanmar’s health services and replace the damaged medical equipment in affected facilities", Dr Laroche said. "Our goal is to treat survivors and provide them with care and support by building a health system that can withstand future natural disasters.”

The cyclone destroyed about 50% of the health-care system in the affected region. Primary health care needs to be reactivated immediately starting with immunization for measles and polio. There is a need to strengthen disease surveillance in cooperation with Myanmar authorities in order to respond to potential outbreaks. A rapid assessment of the damage to health facilities is needed to understand what is required immediately. Additional supplies of essential emergency medicines, equipment, bednets, and provision of mental health and psychological support for survivors suffering trauma are planned.

“While continuing with the emergency phase, WHO is assisting the Government of Myanmar in strengthening the existing health systems,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Deputy Regional Director for WHO’s Regional Office for South-East Asia. “We are preparing an early recovery plan which will dovetail into Myanmar’s national health plan. WHO is advocating a community-based approach to strengthen Myanmar’s national and local health systems," she added. Dr Poonam Singh is heading WHO's emergency operations in Myanmar.

WHO and the medical charity organization Merlin co-chair the Health Cluster, which coordinates more than 40 partners including UN agencies and more than two dozen international NGOs. The US$ 28 million needed for the plan includes US$ 10 million for WHO activities.

The plan of action also aims to prevent and control communicable diseases, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, tetanus, measles, dengue fever and malaria. It advocates the continuation of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS care and treatment, prevention and containment of vector-borne diseases and handling of snake bites.

For further information contact:

Paul Garwood
Communications Officer
Health Action in Crises
WHO, Geneva
Mobile: +41 794 75 55 46
E-mail: garwoodp@who.int

Vismita Gupta-Smith
Public Information and Advocacy officer
WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India
Telephone: +91 11 2330 9401
E-mail: guptasmithv@searo.who.int

Chadin Tephaval
Communications Officer
WHO, Bangkok
Telephone: +66 81 590 1524
E-mail: chadin@searo.who.int

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