Although the number of casualties was low (83) compared with the rest of the affected nations, the impact was tremendous because the entire country, and one third of the population, was affected. With 2,214 people confirmed injured prompt access to adequate health facilities and treatment was imperative. Providing relief was logistically difficult owing to the country’s geographical makeup – 200 inhabited islands stretching almost 900 kilometres.
Initial health concerns focused on the contamination of water and lack of adequate sanitation facilities posing a threat of diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, hepatitis, viral fever and dysentery. There was also the risk of vector-borne diseases, making effective disease surveillance vital. The tsunami proved to be a huge blow to the country’s public health infrastructure, damaging one regional hospital, two atoll hospitals, 14 health centres and 20 health posts.
WHO has placed due emphasis on supporting the Ministry of Health to establish disease surveillance measures, and ensure an adequate and immediate response to possible outbreak.
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, WHO worked to facilitate a coordinated health response between NGO's, international agencies and the Ministry of Health.
In terms of supplies, WHO has provided 11 Emergency health kits, covering for the basic needs of 300,000 persons for 3 months. Ten surgical kits, 100,000 packs of Oral Rehydration Salts, and 6.5 MT of chlorine were also provided.
Water and sanitation
Water and sanitation issues have seen significant improvements, albeit by temporary measures, such as the provision of sustainable water supplies to the islands, while long-term solutions are being sought. The timely availability of technical experts in affected areas helped greatly in planning the recovery efforts.