Shortages of specific medicines and supplies in Indonesia

The emergency continues in Indonesia, as World Health Organization (WHO) works with authorities work to provide medical care to survivors, to acquire the right kinds of medicines and equipment, and to set up a disease surveillance system in the areas hit by Saturday's earthquake.

WHO is coordinating the health response with the UN system and non-governmental organizations, to try to ensure the most effective responses are reaching the people who need the help. So far, several tonnes of medicines and medical equipment have arrived in the country. WHO is helping to manage these at the congested airports, to ensure that the right medicines and equipment are distributed to the right places.

"There are shortages of some very specific medicines and supplies, including orthopaedic supplies, anaesthetics and antibiotics," said Dr Georg Petersen, WHO Country Representative, Indonesia . “However,” he added, “ Only appropriate medicines should be sent, and that too in consultation with the national authorities. Previous experience of disasters has shown that inappropriate contributions have only led to confusion.”

There is also a lack of bed sheets, mattresses and other consumable medical equipment such as sterile kits for surgeries, stitching materials and x-ray films. WHO is compiling a full list of necessary medicines, supplies and equipment and will be constantly updated and distributed.

Based on experience from the tsunami, WHO is also offering its technical guidelines in local languages, which will help authorities in the management of medicines, mental health assistance for the survivors and the handling of dead bodies. The great majority of the dead were quickly buried. WHO emphasizes that the human remains still entombed under the rubble do not constitute a public health hazard, as bodies do not "carry" disease.

More than 400 Indonesian health personnel are arriving in the area from around the country to help offer treatment and support to the thousands of people crowding inside the hospitals. Indonesian authorities are emphasizing that donations of appropriate medicines, supplies and equipment, rather than people, will be most helpful.

Clean water and safe sanitation are critical for the people now living in crowded conditions. Without them, these conditions can quickly lead to disease outbreaks, including measles, diarrhea, dengue fever, and respiratory infections. WHO has epidemiologists on the ground, who are helping to set up a disease surveillance system, which can detect and respond to diseases outbreaks before they spread.

WHO has 13 staff serving in the area in close coordination with national health authorities and more national and international staff are on stand-by, ready to move upon as soon as they are needed. WHO has already dispatched emergency health kits to serve the needs of 50,000 people for three months and surgical kits to perform 600 surgeries. More supplies are being sent.

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