WHO says earthquake survivors need medical care, safe water, vaccinations

The World Health Organization is sending emergency equipment, and will help to support vaccination campaigns and set up a disease surveillance system following the devastating earthquake on the island of Java, Indonesia on Saturday.

Rescue teams are still finding people who need medical help. The latest available figures show that an estimated 5000 people died and several thousand were injured, including some 1500 very seriously injured patients who need urgent medical evacuation and care. About 200 000 people are displaced from their homes. Bantul District, south of Yogyakarta and with a population of about 790,000, is reported to be the worst hit with the majority of houses destroyed.

At least one of the six hospitals in the District has been destroyed and other hospitals in the area are overcrowded. WHO has several staff working with the Ministry of Health (MOH) in the affected area.

Additional national and international staff are on stand-by in Jakarta. WHO has sent vehicles loaded with medicines and communications equipment into the area, including with emergency health kits containing drugs and medical supplies for 50 000 people for three months, along with surgical kits to support 600 operations.

WHO will also help to set up a disease surveillance system in order to detect and control outbreaks of communicable diseases, including diarrhoeal disease. Such a system was instrumental in finding and controlling disease in Aceh following the tsunami.

WHO will also help to organize vaccination campaigns against measles, which can be a major killer and spreads rapidly in crowded areas.

Rather than sending people to help with rescue and recovery, the Indonesian government has requested more medicines and supplies. The MoH is mobilizing its medical and health teams and is deploying more than 200 doctors and nurses to the affected areas, to assist the injured and also to relieve the health staff who have been working around the clock since the start of this disaster.

Prior to the earthquake there were 29000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the province who had been moved out of their communities as a precautionary measure against the possible eruption of Mt. Merapi. Clean water, safe sanitation and waste removal will rapidly be needed, particularly for people who have been displaced, in order to prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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