Health Action in Crises - Highlights No. 207 - 5 Apr to 11 May 2008

from World Health Organization
Published on 11 May 2008 View Original
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.


- The cluster approach has been activated for health, logistics, protection, water and sanitation, food and nutrition. WHO leads the Health Cluster.

- The IASC weekly meeting in Geneva updated on the situation on 7 May.

- An ad-hoc Emergency Directors meeting on Myanmar took place on 8 May.

- The Global Health Cluster held a teleconference on 8 May on emergency health action in the country.

- A Flash Appeal is being launched on 9 May. WHO will request US$ 5 million. The CERF Secretariat has pledged US$ 10 million against the appeal.

Assessments and Events

On 2 and 3 May, Cyclone Nargis swept through the Irrawaddy delta region and the former capital Yangon. The cyclone has caused unprecedented devastation and authorities have declared Yangon, Irrawaddy, Bago, Mon and Kayin disaster zones. Large areas remain underwater and assessments are ongoing.

More than 22 000 are reported dead and at least 42 000 missing but figures are expected to rise. Most deaths have occurred in the delta region, where strong winds and a tidal wave reportedly destroyed over 90% of seven townships. Bogalay alone accounts for at least 10 000 deaths with most of the 190 000 residents reported to be homeless.

Over one million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Loss of access to health care due to damage to facilities and missing or displaced health personnel is one priority concern. Displacement, over-crowding and lack of safe water are raising the risks for communicable diseases. Malaria and tuberculosis are two major public health hazards in the country.

Emergency teams are searching for survivors, providing first-aid, clearing roads and organizing the supply of food, blankets, shelter and essential medicines. However, flooding and damage to infrastructure, communications, etc. are posing logistical problems both for assessment and for the provision of relief.

Chlorine powder, essential medicines, cholera kits, malaria drugs, impregnated bed nets, supplies for the management of dead bodies and water purification units for hospitals and clinics are urgently needed.


The Government has established an Emergency Committee headed by the Prime Minister and requested support from the international community.

The WHO Office in Yangon has activated a crisis room and diverted national staff from unaffected areas. WHO is coordinating the response with the MoH, UNICEF, IOM and other partners.

Overall 140 WHO staff members are working on the response Using the Polio Network, WHO has deployed surveillance officers to assess the health situation, identify priority needs and support the health response coordination. They are currently in Labutto, Bogalay, and Thaubang.

The epidemiological situation in the country is being monitored to ensure early detection and response to any communicable disease threat. Unconfirmed cases of cholera are reported in Yangon and the Delta area.

The Regional Office in SEARO has set up a crisis room and are supporting the response.

WHO, with the support of the Italian Government, has provided ten emergency health kits, enough to ensure essential care to 300 000 people for three months.

SEARO and DFID have provided US$ 175 000 and 80 000 respectively to procure the immediate supplies. Norway, Denmark and Monaco have already pledged in-kind and financial support to WHO.