Bulletin of the World Health Organization

WHO assists with relief efforts in south Asia

WHO/C. Black
Patients in Muzaffarabad.

WHO experts have been helping Pakistan and India with the provision of emergency health care to thousands of survivors injured in or made homeless by the 8 October earthquake in south Asia.

The earthquake which measured 7.6 on the Richter Scale hit Pakistan hardest, but parts of India and Afghanistan were also affected.

According to Pakistani authorities, an estimated 3.3 million people lost their homes and more than 38 000 people died. Many of an estimated 65 000 people injured had still received no treatment two weeks after disaster struck, WHO said.

As part of a United Nations Flash Appeal, WHO requested US$ 21.7 million to address the health needs of some four million people living in the affected region in south Asia after 26 hospitals were destroyed and 600 clinics were destroyed or severely damaged.

WHO said the number of health workers needed to double or triple to address these needs.

In Pakistan, where officials have called the earthquake the “worst disaster” in their history, the WHO country team joined by 60 experts from headquarters have been helping to assess the population’s health needs and to coordinate a response.

Disease surveillance, particularly in larger population centres will be critical to find and stop any disease outbreaks. WHO is helping to establish an Early Warning and Response Surveillance Network (EWARN) to track and respond to outbreaks of disease.

More than 200 Pakistani health officials and all health partners were being trained in disease surveillance including surgical teams, medical teams and field hospitals. These staff were then to report to EWARN on the number and type of cases they have treated.

WHO/C. Black
A family waits to be evacuated from Muzaffarabad helipad.

WHO, together with Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, sent 40 teams of surgeons as well as public health and environmental specialists to areas affected by the earthquake on 18 October. Another group of 100 students and 30 epidemiologists from the Aga Khan University were due to be trained and dispatched to help with disease surveillance and response.

WHO, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Italian Government have delivered nine emergency health kits containing sufficient medicines and medical supplies to serve the needs of 270 000 people for one month. Of these, four emergency health kits have been delivered to Mansehra and three to Muzaffarabad while the remainder were in the capital, Islamabad.

The earthquake caused serious damage in some areas of Jammu and Kashmir in India, where the WHO country team has been helping the authorities with disease surveillance. WHO’s Regional Office for South-East Asia provided four surgical supply kits that can serve hundreds of people with injuries. The WHO Country office in India has also provided US$ 11 600 to the Indian Red Cross for urgent relief items.