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Health Action in Crises - Highlights No. 229, 06 to 12 Oct 2008

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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.


- A flash appeal may be forthcoming to prepare the health system and health facilities for a potential crisis during the winter.

Assessments and Events

- On 5 October, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck the villages of Sary-Tash and Nura, south-east of Osh, at the border with Tajikistan and China. A first survey reports extensive damage in Nura.

- As of 8 October, the Chief Physician in Osh reported 74 people killed and 142 injured, of which 43 and 93 respectively were children. About 211 homeless families have been identified. The numbers are not expected to rise dramatically as the region is sparsely populated.

- Remoteness, limited access and difficult communication are hampering assessments and relief activities. Freezing temperatures are reported at night.

- Health workers are reporting an urgent need for psychosocial support.


- The Ministry of Emergencies (MoE) is assessing casualties, damages and needs in the surrounding villages and has mobilized search and rescue workers, ambulances and helicopters for evacuations. UN agencies are supporting damage assessment.

- The MoE and MoH are providing relief. Initial needs in Nura have been met.

- The MoH plans to deploy a field hospital in Sary-Tash to ensure the provision of specialist services (surgery and intensive care, paediatric services, etc.).

- Two WHO emergency health kits stored in Osh Hospital's warehouse were used immediately, ensuring the availability of essential drugs.

- As support from the international community is increasing, UN agencies are compiling a table to review who is doing what where to improve coordination and avoid duplications.

- Funding for WHO's response has been provided so far by the regular budget.