Belize + 14 more

Health Action in Crises - Highlights No. 231, 20 to 26 Oct 2008


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 20 October, a meeting was organized to present the Government of Honduras national emergency decree to bilateral donors and NGOs and to review immediate needs.

Assessments and Events

- Since 16 October, prolonged heavy rains have caused floods and landslides in Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.

- The state of emergency was declared in Honduras, where 14 people died and 127 000 are affected. All but one of the 18 departments are flooded and 4000 people have found refuge in shelters. Some areas are accessible only by boats. The main health concerns are gastrointestinal diseases and acute respiratory infections. Primary needs include portable latrines, water purification and household hygiene kits.

- Another 13 people died and more than 20 000 are affected in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. No deaths are reported in Belize and El Salvador but both are also affected by the floods.

- Monitoring and control of vector and waterborne diseases is essential.


- In Honduras, UN agencies and NGOs are working with the MoH to mobilize medical teams across the country. WHO/PAHO reprogrammed regular funds to support the teams and to purchase medicines. WHO/PAHO deployed experts in water and sanitation, disaster management and supply management (SUMA). Three teams are conducting assessments in the most affected areas.

- In Belize, WHO/PAHO is supporting a MoH needs assessment mission. No assistance has been requested so far.

- Spain provided US$ 30 000 to PAHO for disaster relief activities in Honduras.


- In Somalia, a UNICEF staff member was killed on 19 October by unidentified gunmen in the southern town of Hudur.

- Drought and water shortages in the North and North-Eastern regions of Kenya have led to recurrent resource-based conflicts, making parts of the districts of Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit, Cherangany, Marakwet and Samburu inaccessible. An upsurge in insecurity in Mandera district has led to the imposition of a curfew.

Assessments and Events

- More than 17 million people urgently need food and humanitarian assistance in the region, and the number could rise further as the lean season is at its peak.

- The situation is critical in parts of Ethiopia, central and southern Somalia and Djibouti. Food insecurity is worsening in Eritrea, northern and north-eastern Kenya and in Uganda's Karamoja region.

- Across the region, there have been 7574 cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea (AWD), 162 of them fatal since January. Both the drought and the localized floods increase the possibility of outbreaks.

- In Ethiopia, 6.4 million people need food aid until the end of the year, of which 1.9 million are in the Somali region. As of 5 October, 3675 AWD cases and 22 related deaths had been reported nationwide.

- In Eritrea, lack of rains over the last months is further eroding the people's coping capacities.

- In Djibouti, approximately 340 000 people - more than half the population - need food assistance.

- In Kenya, 1.38 million people require assistance due to the combined impact of drought, violence and a 60% general rise in prices since January. On 14 October, at least 6000 persons were displaced by flash floods in Mandera town.

- In Somalia, 3.3 million people, or more than 40% of the population, need humanitarian assistance. More than 97 200 people were displaced in September, of which 22 900 are from Mogadishu. There are now 300 000-400 000 IDPs along the Afgooye corridor, all of them food and health insecure. In September 1253 AWD cases were reported among the IDPs, while in Merka district, 412 suspected cholera cases were reported between 13 August and 7 October.

- In Uganda, 70% of the population in the Karamoja region is food-insecure; this figure could rise to 900 000 by the end of 2009 if the deterioration continues. As of 30 September, 8459 cases of hepatitis E and 126 deaths (CFR 1.5%) had been recorded Kitgum district and 53 cases and seven deaths in Pader.


- In Ethiopia, therapeutic feeding programmes have been established in all 54 hot spot districts of SNNP region. Partners are now trying to intensify the response in the Afar, Amhara and Somali regions where capacity is low. WHO, UNICEF and partner NGOs are supporting the MoH for AWD control.

- In Djibouti, WHO has received US$ 210 833 from the CERF Secretariat to strengthen the decentralization of emergency response. WHO is:

- strengthening the outreach of mobiles teams with drugs and operational funds, and

- involving communities in referral of malnutrition or communicable disease cases.

- In Somalia, UNFPA provided 200 clean delivery kits to traditional birth attendants in Mogadishu while WHO provided refresher training. WHO and partners provided antibiotics, oral rehydration salts, Ringer Lactate, IV fluids and disinfectants in response to the increasing number of AWD cases. Agencies also provided chlorine for the treatment of wells in Marka district to avoid spread of cholera to Afgooye and other areas.

- In Uganda, WHO provides technical and financial support to training and sensitization activities to strengthen case management and epidemiological surveillance in the north and in Karamoja region. WHO, FAO, UNICEF and WFP received a US$ 5 million CERF grant in August to extend food assistance, scale up therapeutic feeding and conduct other activities.

- WHO's emergency work in the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda) is funded by Canada, China, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, United States, the CERF and OCHA.