Health action in crises - Highlights No 121 - 14 to 20 Aug 2006

from World Health Organization
Published on 20 Aug 2006
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:

The UN Security Council adopted on 11 August Resolution 1701 calling for a full cessation of hostilities. Israeli armed forces are withdrawing from the South of Lebanon but the naval blockade remains in effect.

The Lebanese Higher Relief Committee estimates that 200 000 displaced have returned, or are in the process of returning, to the South. UNHCR estimates that at least 48 000 people had left Syria and returned to Lebanon.

Priorities include addressing the health needs of the rapidly returning population, including the threat of unexploded ordnance and cluster bombs in the South.

The focus of health partners is shifting to early recovery and reconstruction of the health system.


WHO is establishing desks in the UN humanitarian hubs in Tyre and Saida.

WHO sent a logistician and a public health expert to Saida to prepare for the rapid assessment of health facilities in areas previously inaccessible.

The MoH, the American University of Beirut and WHO are training 50 public health students and family doctors who have volunteered to carry out the assessment of 800 health facilities all over the country.

WHO will provide supplies for three months to the public health laboratory at El Hariri University Hospital in Beirut. It is the first of six laboratories to be identified as reference centre for the confirmation of suspected outbreaks. The hospital will provide free laboratory tests for the displaced.

WHO will lead the technical subgroup of the Water and Sanitation Cluster. To ensure rapid results of water quality tests, WHO has agreements with the Central Laboratory and the Environmental Health laboratory of the MoH.

Geographical mapping of health activities is ongoing to facilitate equal distribution of supplies.

WHO offloaded 67 tons of fuel in Beirut to be distributed to 18 hospitals in Tyre, Saida and Nabatiye to enable them to function for at least ten days.

WHO is sending one trauma kit and six doctor's kits with equipment for over 100 operations to the hospital in Marjayoun.

In Syria, the MoH, the Syrian Red Crescent Society and NGOs will implement disease surveillance in the camps with WHO technical assistance.

Pledges for health activities were received from the CERF, Australia, Canada, ECHO, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Norway and Sweden.

The revised Flash Appeal, which will incorporate the transitional phase of rehabilitation/recovery, is expected to be published by 28 August. It will be followed on 31 August, by an international donor conference hosted by the Government of Sweden.


Assessments and events:

The conflict and financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority continues impact on the delivery of health care, especially in Gaza.

Shortages of drugs and supplies are reported from various health services across the oPt.

The UN Secretary General spoke last week on the urgent need to work towards a solution to the current crisis.


WHO continues assessing hospitals and primary health centres in the oPt, especially across Gaza.

Starting with regular monitoring of health status and services, WHO is now focusing a more in-depth analysis on specific issues such as underweight, diarrhoea, immunizations and personnel attendance.

WHO convened a coordination meeting with of UN Agencies and the ICRC to discuss intersectoral aspects of the current crisis, including the impact of shortages of electricity and water on the health sector.

In Gaza, WHO briefed representatives from Norway on the health situation, needs and available resources.

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:

Since the beginning of the year, renewed violence the northeast between the Government and the LTTE has killed over 800 people and displaced 90 000; it has also caused loss of staff, damage to equipment, scarcity of medicines and increased levels of ill health. The capacities of the health system are overstretched.

Two decades of violent conflict have worn down family structures and social safety nets and exhausted populations' resilience and coping mechanisms. Vulnerability of communities, families and individuals is extreme.

Violence is also making the implementation of post -tsunami recovery programmes increasingly difficult, while more than 500 000 people are still receiving assistance, about half of them displaced.

A deterioration of the humanitarian space is reported with threats, attacks, limitations to access and new bureaucratic procedures.


WHO is planning to support local health authorities to protect the health of affected and vulnerable populations. WHO's support would be channelled through the existing health delivery system of the MoH and of NGOs working the affected districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Mulliathivu, Vyunia and Jaffna.

WHO's plan, estimated at US$ 600 000, will focus on health assessments, health coordination, identifying and filling gaps and strengthening local health delivery systems.

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