WHO increases supply to Myanmar to prevent disease outbreak

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New Delhi, May 23 (UNI) With monsoon rains increasing health risks to cyclone Nargis survivors, the World Health Organisation has rushed more supplies to Myanmar to prevent disease outbreaks.

Displacement of population, overcrowding in temporary shelters and lack of safe water will increase the risk of communicable diseases, the organisation said, adding that it is also urging psychosocial support for cyclone survivors.

''WHO in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and health cluster partners is working to set up a disease outbreak surveillance system where information on potential outbreaks will be collected by not only health workers, but also members of affected communities'' said Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

Diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and dengue fever are diseases endemic to Myanmar and are among those being monitored, she added.

WHO international experts for emergency health management, early warning and alert systems for disease surveillance and logistics have arrived in Myanmar, she informed.

The organisation has provided medical supplies including antibiotics, bleaching powder, water purification tablets, insecticides treated bednets, insecticides and oral rehydration salts, Dr Plianbangchang claimed.

Twenty Inter-agency Emergency Health Kits have been sent to Myanmar, containing medicines for common diseases and medical devices for primary health care workers. Each kit provides essential medicines and supplies to treat 10,000 people for three months, she added.

''We have dispatched emergency medical supplies to treat 600,000 survivors of the cyclone and more is on its way,'' said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Deputy Regional Director for South-East Asia and also the head of Myanmar emergency operations.

''Reducing the risk of communicable disease outbreaks is our biggest concern. Effective use of the early warning systems needs to be strengthened to contain potential outbreaks,'' she added.

About 50 per cent of health centers in affected areas were damaged or destroyed by cyclone Nargis. WHO has provided financial and operational support to 350 rapid response teams and medical teams of the Ministry of Health, Myanmar, she said.

According to WHO, about 30-50 per cent of the cyclone affected population could suffer psychological distress, she said.

Dr Singh stressed on the need to provide psychological and social support to the affected population through trained health workers.

Since the 2004 tsunami, WHO has been sensitising health workers in Member countries, including Myanmar, to help communities deal with the psychosocial impact of disasters, she said.

UNI AJ RJ CS2002

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