Emergency health action programme for South Asia
First 100 days following the events of December 26 2004 - Earthquakes and Tsunami
The disaster that struck in South East Asia affecting twelve countries on 26 December 2004 has been called one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. At least 70,000 lives have been lost so far, as many as 300,000 people have been injured and many are in need of urgent medical or surgical treatment. The death toll is likely to increase further. In the region it is estimated that as many as 5 million people have been directly affected. Damage and destruction to infrastructure has left many homeless and without adequate health facilities to meet basic health needs of affected populations.
The need for immediate public health action for the surviving populations hit by this disaster is critical. Vulnerable groups including women, children and the elderly are particularly at risk. Millions of people are now under serious threat of disease outbreaks as a result of damaged water and sanitation systems and sea water contamination. Cholera, typhoid fever, shigellosis, hepatitis A and E are serious threats. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever also pose a significant threat. Increased overcrowded conditions of displaced people lead to an increased risk of outbreaks of measles, influenza and meningitis, increased incidence of acute respiratory infections and increased tuberculosis transmission. Leptospirosis may also become a risk. The table below indicates the risk of diseases to each country affected by the crisis. Monitoring diseases, communicating information, guidance and responding to emerging health threats is essential.
|Hepatitits A & E||+||+||+||+||+|
|Malaria||+||Not in coastal areas||-||Not in south||Not in south|
The WHO Emergency Health Action Programme in South East Asia is critical to responding to the urgent needs of the affected populations of this regional crisis.
The WHO Health Action in Crisis Network was activated immediately following the news of the disaster. WHO Headquarters in Geneva and the WHO South East Asia Regional Office in New Delhi have established 24-hour Operations Crisis Centres with a senior level task force to support the emergency needs of the affected countries in the Region, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Maldives and Thailand in particular, and Bangladesh and Myanmar.
WHO actions underway include:
Initial actions undertaken by WHO
WHO staff from all over the world have already been mobilized to support country operations in the region. Senior Regional Office Staff and technical staff from non-affected Member States have been assigned to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.
In WHO country offices, the Emergency and Humanitarian Action focal points are active in supporting authorities in coordination for the health sector and participation in initial needs assessments jointly with Governments and UN Agencies and NGOs. As a result, emergency health kits and other requested supplies have already been shipped to Sri Lanka, and Aceh, Indonesia by WHO. Other supplies and needs are also being addressed for India and the Maldives.
- supporting needs of country offices and Ministries of Health in disease surveillance;
- providing technical advice to countries on good practice in outbreak situations and to reduce environmental and public health risks;
- supporting needs assessment and proposal development for present and medium term restoration and protection of the health and well-being of the affected population;
- providing guidelines on disposal of dead bodies, psycho-social needs and protection of vulnerable groups, especially women;
- mobilizing resources and supplies such as essential drugs and water purification tablets/chlorine; and
- Coordinating and managing information requests for technical issues and public and media information.