Posted in Issue 100 August 2005 News from PAHO/WHO
The rebuilding and reconstruction phase that is underway in many countries in South Asia affected by the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami of December 2004 has opened a window of opportunity for the health sector of these countries to strengthen their health systems in a long-term, sustainable manner.
Six months after the disaster, local health capacity and infrastructure are being fortified and local health professionals have been trained to serve their communities better. WHO has focused on a number of areas, such as disease surveillance to help prevent major outbreaks, providing technical advice by mobilizing public health experts, developing technical guidelines and training courses, and coordinating the health response.
Medical supplies and equipment have been provided to affected hospitals and medical centers. The public health laboratory in the Maldives has received a water purification system and accessories to assist in surveillance and monitoring of chemical and microbiological contaminants in food.
All activities are being developed and carried out in close coordination with the government health authorities in each affected country to ensure sustainability. For example, the epidemiological surveillance and outbreak response system, established in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, will now be used as part of the country’s routine integrated disease surveillance.
For more about the World Health Organization’s activities visit www.whosea.org and click on “Complete Tsunami Coverage.” This excellent site includes many reports and feature stories, a tsunami photo library and emergency health guidelines. See page 6 for a new publication on WHO’s post-tsunami health activities.