Health action in crises - Highlights No 117 - 17 to 23 Jul 2006

from World Health Organization
Published on 23 Jul 2006 View Original
Each week, the World Health Organization Department for Health Action in Crises in Geneva produces information highlights on the health aspects of selected 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.

Assessments and events:

As of 19 July, the Lebanese MoH is reporting 280 killed and 680 injured; the psychological impact of violence is serious.

At least 400 000 people have been displaced. Most have sought refuge in the omes of family members or in secondary residences, often located in remote, mountain areas, which are perceived as safer. Another 85 000 are sheltered in schools and other public buildings.

OCHA estimates that 130 000 people have crossed into Syria; 45 000 of them are thought to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

As the number of people in shelters increases, safe drinking water and sanitation are becoming a major concern. Access to health care and treatment is also critical.

In Beirut, all hospitals are reportedly functioning despite power cuts.

The situation remains unclear in the affected areas of South Lebanon and South Beirut. Ongoing bombings and the destruction of key infrastructures complicate communication and limit access to health care.

Humanitarian corridors need to be agreed upon to ensure safe passage for relief.

The Lebanese Government has requested international assistance for:

- Medicines - diarrhoea but also chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension - antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, and pain killers;

- Supplies like chlorine, surgical gloves, dialysis filters, medical refrigerators;

- Materials for shelter, including tents, blankets, and generators;

- Fire fighting equipment.


WHO has mobilized all levels to establish surge capacities in its offices in Damascus and Beirut. A WHO response team including health, logistics and security experts is in Beirut.

Taking advantage of the informal network led by the MoH, WHO is helping in setting up coordination mechanisms with other UN agencies, the Lebanese Red Cross and national NGOs.

In collaboration with the MoH, the ICRC and UN partners, WHO is conducting preliminary assessments and promoting coordination of health activities.

Within WHO, experts from technical departments are working together on communicable and non-communicable diseases, essential drugs and environmental health. A communicable diseases risk profile is being prepared which will include prioritization of emergency interventions as well as surveillance and early warning guidelines.

WHO has issued a donor alert covering the forthcoming months, estimating the current needs at US$ 4.5 million.


Assessments and events:

The humanitarian situation is worsening. The Gaza municipality has run out of fuel, and shortages of water and electricity resulting in health threats to the population. Lack of power affects water treatment plants, increasing the risk of communicable disease outbreaks, and hinders the preservation of cold chain items and food supplies.

Emergency stocks of essential drugs at MoH hospitals are running low.


WHO visited primary health care facilities, hospitals and drug stores in the West Bank and in Gaza to improve their monitoring system and collect data on the impact of the current crisis on the delivery of health services.

A WHO Nutrition team visited the five peripheral district clinics of Gaza to train district staff on the software used for nutrition surveillance. Data will be compiled in a report on the nutritional status of Gaza children.

WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA have been updating and monitoring indicators in preparation of the July CAP review to be delivered next week by OCHA.

WHO's 2006 emergency activities are funded by the Organization's Regular Budget and a contribution from Norway.

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