Health action in crises - Highlights No 118 - 24 to 30 Jul 2006

from World Health Organization
Published on 30 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 27 July, attacks continue on South Lebanon and Beirut as well as against Israel. Data on deaths is contradictory. In Lebanon, the Higher Relief Committee is reporting 3225 injured. In Israel, reports indicate several hundred people wounded.

In Lebanon, more than 865 000 people have been displaced so far, of which approximately 107 000 are living in temporary accommodation. Another 150 000 have fled across the border to Syria.

The large-scale destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure is affecting the health system's capacity to deliver care. No reports have been received yet regarding damaged health facilities.

According to the Lebanese Higher Relief Committee, severe shortages of safe drinking water, food, and medical supplies are reported all over South Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley. The targeting of factories has drastically slowed local production of food and non-food items.

The Committee distributed 7650 food baskets, 8000 blankets, 2000 mattresses and 360 children kits. UN agencies and international NGOs are also conducting direct distribution of aid to affected areas.

Access to the targeted areas needs to be secured.


WHO's response team comprising a senior epidemiologist, a senior public health officer, and a senior mental health adviser arrived in Damascus and have started operational coordination.

WHO sent supplies as part of a UN convoy carrying WHO, WFP, UNRWA and UNICEF emergency supplies to the city of Tyre. WHO supplies will provide basic healthcare for 50 000 people for three months, including five emergency health kits, oral rehydration salts, glucose and Ringer's solution.

In Beirut, assessments in a number of shelters reveal that the majority of needs are being covered by national NGOs.

A pilot mechanism for early warning and surveillance is under discussion among health partners in Lebanon. WHO is sharing forms for data collection, which can be easily adapted to the Lebanese situation.

Collaboration with other agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA, the Lebanese Red Cross and others is instituted through the Health Cluster mechanism.

Seeking US$ 144 million, the Flash Appeal for Lebanon was launched on 24 July. More than US$ 32.4 million are requested for health, including US$ 14 million specifically for WHO activities. Pledges have been received from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Australia, Canada, ECHO, Italy, Ireland and Sweden.


Assessments and events:

In the week between 16 and 22 July, armed operations in the Gaza Strip have killed 24 and injured 107.

Shortages of water and electricity in Gaza are 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. The ongoing financial crisis is hampering the payment of salaries and the purchase of drugs and supplies.

Water quality is regularly sampled by the Palestinian MoH and the Costal Municipalities Water Utility.


WHO continues to monitor the impact of the current crisis on the delivery of health services by visiting primary health care facilities, hospitals and drug stores in the West Bank and in Gaza.

WHO and the World Bank discussed the WHO system monitoring the humanitarian situation and health indicators which will be used by the World Bank to monitor the Palestinian Authority performance.

WHO made a presentation on health situation to an EC meeting with donors and specialized agencies.

A health-coordination meeting was held at WHO on the health emergency situation with the participation of donors, UN Agencies and NGOs.

WHO supported a capacity building workshop for the district nutrition focal points of the MoH in Ramallah.

A Nutrition Steering Committee meeting co-chaired by the MoH and WHO was convened with both West Bank and Gaza. The MoH and UN agencies discussed the MoH nutrition surveillance system supported by WHO.

WHO's mental health team worked with a visiting consultant preparing a funding proposal for ECHO. WHO sponsored a workshop for nurses as well as a meeting for stakeholders on mental health.

WHO's 2006 emergency activities are funded by the Organization's Regular Budget, a contribution from Norway and a UN Trust Fund for Human Security funded by Japan.


Assessments and events:

Food insecurity across the region continues to affect 88 000 in Djibouti, 350 000 in Eritrea, 2.6 million in Ethiopia, 3.5 million in Kenya and 2.1 million in Somalia. FAO warned of a looming food crisis in Somalia, brought on by patchy seasonal rains and military activities.

In Ethiopia, health service delivery in Borena is extremely fragile; most health facilities are inadequately staffed and have only a nominal budget for drugs and operational costs.

In Kenya, ten cases of leishmaniasis were confirmed in the district of Isiolo. The MoH delivered appropriate drugs to Wajir and Isiolo districts.

In Somalia, 25 cases of watery diarrhoea with four deaths were reported among children under five in Afmadow district, Lower Juba, during the second week of June.


In Djibouti, work started to strengthen nutritional surveillance. Results from a field assessment report on nutrition will be available shortly.

In Eritrea, outreach services are planned for the Northern and Southern Red Sea regions. Health emergency and trauma kits were procured. Some 74 clinicians were trained on integrated disease surveillance and response. Operational guidelines were produced.

In Ethiopia, WHO provided health kits to support relief operations in Borena. The health centre of Yabelo, the capital city of Borena, has a capacity of six beds, which was increased with tents during the recent conflict. WHO provided anti-malaria drugs and insecticides and supported training on surveillance to enhance completiveness, timeliness and information dissemination.

In Kenya, a MoH team from Isiolo was sent to support investigations. WHO is supporting training on integrated disease surveillance and response against leishmaniasis. Community mobilization and use of insecticide-treated bed nets have started.

In Somalia, WHO sent medical supplies to Lower Juba to respond to the diarrhoea outbreak. Social mobilization is also under way in the affected district.

WHO and UNICEF prepared a proposal for cross border immunization in the drought affected area. It includes strengthening the cold chain, improving detection and response to outbreaks and supporting coordination.

WHO's emergency activities are supported by a grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Additional support is provided by Italy for Djibouti and Sweden for Somalia.

(pdf* format - 184 KB)