WHO launches health recovery strategy for the Indian Ocean

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 13 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:110
  1. Peter Moszynski
  1. London

    Search and rescue operations after last month's huge tsunami in the Indian Ocean are largely over, and the focus is now shifting to relief and recovery, according to the World Health Organization.

    Dr Lee Jong-wook, the director general, who was visiting the region in the first week of January, said, “We are extremely concerned about the ongoing lack of access to basic needs. Five million people have been severely affected by the tsunami. We now estimate that as many as 150 000 people are at extreme risk if a major disease outbreak in the affected areas occurs. The most urgent need now is to make sure everyone has access to safe drinking water.”

    The organisation, which is coordinating the international medical response, announced that it needs $66m (£35m; €50m) to tackle urgent public health needs, particularly for preventing outbreaks of water-borne and other infectious diseases. This forms part of a $1bn United Nations emergency flash appeal for victims of the tsunami, agreed at the Jakarta summit in the first week of January.

    WHO has published an emergency strategy that focuses on five key objectives to ensure the rapid recovery and rehabilitation of public health services:

    • Coordination of health relief with national authorities, local communities, other United Nations organisations, non-governmental organisations, and donors to ensure the right aid reaches the right people at the right time

    • Access to essential health care—ensuring adequate supplies of basic medical care through key hospitals (including temporary field hospitals) and health centres

    • Disease surveillance and response—immediate strengthening of surveillance to rapidly detect and respond to potential outbreaks

    • Technical support—providing guidance on critical public health issues to public health authorities and strengthening of routine health services

    • Strengthening the medical supply chain—ensuring the chain is restored, including the replacement of lost assets.

    WHO cautions, “If the recovery of local health services is delayed or ineffective, infectious diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, hepatitis, and pneumonia will add to the heavy toll of the disaster itself.”

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