WHO sends over 350 tonnes of medical supplies to Myanmar

May 21st, 2008 - 3:12 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Fearing an outbreak of communicable diseases, including water- and vector-borne diseases, in cyclone-hit Myanmar, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sent over 350 tonnes of medical supplies to the country from its regional headquarters here. “It is vital that the 2.5 million people severely affected by Cyclone Nargis are provided the emergency medical treatment needed to prevent a second wave of casualties from occurring,” said Eric Laroche, assistant director general for WHO’s Health Action in Crises and head of the Global Health Cluster effort.

In a statement issued here Wednesday, WHO said they have intensified efforts to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases, including water- and vector-borne diseases such as dysentery, cholera, malaria and dengue.

The May 2-3 cyclone in the Bay of Bengal hit Yangon, Bago, Irawaddy, Kayin and Mon, and left a trail of devastation.

Quoting an official figure, WHO said about 77,738 people have been killed and 55,917 are missing. An estimated 19,359 people are said to be injured.

As some of the diseases like Malaria are endemic to Myanmar, WHO, other UN agencies and two dozen international nongovernmental organisations, quickly dispatched medical supplies, it said.

“Medicines, safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities, appropriate temporary shelter, vaccinations and safe food are needed to prevent the spread of communicable diseases,” the statement said.

The cyclone damaged about 50 percent of health facilities in the worst affected areas and disrupted access to supplies and health care services in many parts of the country. “While substantial amounts of emergency medical aid have arrived in the country, much more is needed,” it added.

“WHO has supplied 13 emergency health kits which can provide medical care for 390,000 people for one month. Our national staff in Myanmar are delivering these supplies directly to the township hospitals,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, deputy regional director for WHO’s south-east Asia regional office heading the Myanmar emergency operations.

The world health watchdog said there have been reports of severe diarrhoeal cases and malaria.

“Cholera is endemic and authorities are using cholera treatment protocols to respond to all severe diarrhoeal cases. Malaria cases have been reported. Malaria is also endemic to Myanmar, and increased numbers of cases could emerge within the next 4-5 weeks,” it said.

They have already circulated guidelines to the Myanmar ministry of health for management of diarrhoeal diseases like cholera, dengue and snakebites, as well as management of cadavers, risk assessment of communicable diseases and inter-sectoral rapid assessment.

Some 13,000 insecticide-treated bed nets have been sent to Myanmar, and another 20,000 will be dispatched soon to help prevent potential vector-borne disease outbreaks.

They are sending 500 dengue fever disease kits to detect and confirm cases.

Fogging machines are being used to spray temporary shelters in affected townships to prevent and control vector-borne disease outbreaks. Intensive disease surveillance efforts are also underway, it said.

The global health body said many survivors might require psychosocial support to deal with the mental trauma of the cyclone and its aftermath.

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