By the end of October, the devastating 7.6 earthquake that struck Pakistan on October 8 had claimed 55,000 lives and injured more than 75,000. The onset of winter weather and the difficulty in reaching many of the injured could cause these numbers to climb. An estimated four million people are in need of health services and more than three million are homeless.
The number of patients evacuated by helicopter to hospitals outside the the affected areas has reached 20,000, although the daily number of air evacuations to hospitals has decreased to 80. Of more than 13,000 surgical operations carried out in these hospitals, 46 required amputations. The 28 medical teams mobilized by the Ministry of Health and WHO to remote areas have now returned to Islamabad. The teams treated more than 100,000 patients during the last two weeks of October.
In addition to WHO experts, PAHO has provided the support of disaster coordination experts, structural engineers, epidemiologists, logisticians, environmental engineers and a supply management team. WHO and the Ministry of Health established a joint Coordination Center; WHO is also the lead agency for the U.N. Health Cluster. Shelter, water and sanitation are still the main priorities and challenges, as health concerns stem from: a) the shortage of drinking water and sanitation facilities; b) hypothermia and respiratory tract infections due to the lack of shelter; and c) the risk of communicable diseases.
Skin diseases such as scabies and impetigo and acute respiratory infections (ARI) are becoming major public health problems due to the lack of hygiene, the cold weather and inappropriate shelter. By the end of October, the number of trauma cases was decreasing. Of the 1,400 patients in one city alone that sought help from 17 health facilities the first two weeks following the quake, 44% received treatment for injuries; 25% for ARI; and 17% for acute diarrhea. Ministry of Health data indicated that 46% of the patients treated in health facilities were children under15 years of age, while nearly 53% are under 21 years of age. Proactive measures such as measles and tetanus immunization continues in Mansehra and Muzaffarabad and has begun in Batagram and Bagh.
UN and National Authorities Manage Relief Aid in Pakistan
National authorities and the UN are using the Logistics Support System (LSS) in Pakistan to manage the tremendous amount of humanitarian relief arriving in the earthquake-stricken region. The LSS, developed by six UN agencies, inventories all incoming donations and monitors their distribution to warehouses in the affected areas. As is the case with SUMA, the LSS system enhances transparency and accountability in humanitarian operations. But it takes the SUMA system one step further, providing a common platform for sharing information among agencies to avoid duplicating efforts and to improve coordination. The system has been translated into Urdu (the local language) to facilitate the operation. The coordination cell at the Health Emergency Operation Centre at the WHO Office in Islamabad is serving as the reception and dissemination point of health-related information .
For the latest on the health response to the South Asia Earthquake:
http://www.whopak.org/disaster/ WHO Country Office in Pakistan.
http://www.emro.who.int/eha/pakistan.htm WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, headquartered in Cairo, Egypt and responsible for Pakistan.
http://www.who.int/hac WHO headquarters, Department of Health Action in Crises (HAC).