Angola + 21 more

Health Action in Crises - Highlights No. 183 - 12 to 18 Nov 2007


Each week, the World Health Organization Health Action in Crises in Geneva produces information highlights on critical health-related activities in countries where there are humanitarian crises. Drawing on the various WHO programmes, contributions cover activities from field and country offices and the support provided by WHO regional offices and headquarters. The mandate of the WHO departments specifically concerned with Emergency and Humanitarian Action in Crises is to increase the effectiveness of the WHO contribution to crisis preparedness and response, transition and recovery. This note, which is not exhaustive, is designed for internal use and does not reflect any official position of the WHO Secretariat.



- On 14 November, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck near the northern city of Antofagasta. The areas most affected are Tocopilla and Maria Elena.

- In Tocopilla, two deaths are reported and the 115 injured are being cared for by health workers from the Tocopilla and Antofagasta hospitals. Because of structural damage to the Tocopilla hospital, the Chilean Air Force will install a field hospital. The water distribution system was damaged in various locations.

- The national response is so far adequate and for now there is no need for external assistance.


- The National Emergency Office sent emergency supplies. Authorities are striving to ensure the provision of safe drinking water and are providing recommendations on the management of waste, vector control and epidemiologic surveillance. Several shelters have been installed in Tocopilla.

- The MoH is prepared to mobilize specialized personnel and medical aid to address any needs by health authorities in Antofagasta.

- WHO/PAHO is on stand-by to provide assistance if required.



- According to local Red Crescent sources, at least 328 people are dead and hundreds injured or missing after cyclone Sidr hit the coast on 15 November. Officials warn that the death toll could rise as the cyclone triggered a 5-metre high water surge. Up to 700 000 could be affected.

- Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated or sought safe shelter before the storm hit the coast, but some were left behind.


- The WHO Polio surveillance network is the field are preparing to respond to the impact of the cyclone in coordination with the local health authorities.

- In addition to its Polio surveillance officers, WHO deployed two EHA surge teams to the affected areas, Khulna and Chittagong divisions. Four more are expected to join over the weekend.

- WHO emergency stockpiles are in place, replenished in September thanks to a grant from the CERF.


Assessments and Events

- At least 28 persons have died as Storm Peipah made its way through the central provinces; six are still reported missing. More than 187 000 houses have been submerged in the fifth major floods since August. According to Reuters, deaths this week have raised the regional toll to 332, 114 of them since 26 October.

- Hundreds of thousands of people are exposed to the health risks of contaminated water supplies.

- Local health authorities have raised concerns over the risk of outbreaks of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection, skin diseases, dengue and malaria due to contamination, lack of safe water, poor nutrition and shortage of health services.

- Immediate needs include chlorine, insecticides, and medicines as well as environmental management and improved surveillance of outbreaks.


- The MoH is providing aid and essential drugs while the provincial health authorities are strengthening health care and environmental hygiene.

- An inter-agency committee is also conducting an evaluation of the damage to identify the most immediate needs.

- WHO is monitoring the situation and sharing health information and guidelines with the MoH and local health authorities. WHO also assists in improving surveillance of disease outbreaks in affected areas.

- WHO and partners are mobilizing funds to support access to clean water and to decontaminate polluted water supplies in the flooded regions.

- WHO emergency assistance so far has been supported by regular budget funds, and CDC is assisting by associating itself with WHO medical team.