WHO Rushing More Medical Aid to China, Sending Expert Team for Health System Reconstruction

2008-05-22 11:56 629

BEIJING and MANILA, May 22 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is rushing additional medical supplies to the People’s Republic of China. The supplies will be able to treat 130 000 people. WHO is also sending an expert team to collaborate with the government on rebuilding its health infrastructure following the devastating May 12 earthquake.

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WHO will provide equipment to ensure clean drinking water and proper sanitation, which is vital for controlling any outbreak and spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea. This includes 5 000 chlorine disinfection tablets, drinking-water treatment units and mobile toilets.

Four Interagency Emergency Health Kits are now being sent to the quake-affected areas of Sichuan Province by WHO. Each kit provides sufficient essential medicines and supplies to treat 30,000 people for one month. Contained in the kits are medicines for common diseases and medical devices for primary health care workers.

A WHO team of experts will be dispatched shortly to China to support government efforts to reconstruct health care services severely impaired and damaged by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

"WHO has already identified that the key health issue in the earthquake’s aftermath is to prevent and control communicable disease outbreaks," said Dr Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO’s Health Action in Crises cluster. "But the longer-term challenge is how to best rebuild its damaged health infrastructure."

WHO promotes the construction of hospitals and health facilities that can survive the impact of natural disasters, including high-intensity earthquakes. In most cases, a very small increase in construction costs is sufficient to enable health facilities to withstand such natural disasters, at a time when their services and staff are most needed.

Dr Hans Troedsson, WHO’s Representative to China, said the expert team would include a specialist in constructing appropriate health systems, as well as an epidemiologist to assist in disease surveillance control.

"We know health facilities in and around the epicentre of the earthquake were severely affected by the disaster," Dr Troedsson said. "WHO wants to support Chinese efforts to restore fully its hospitals, clinics and other health facilities to ensure they are strong enough to withstand future natural disasters and provide healthcare in the wake of others."

The United Nations has contributed US$ 8 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund to the Chinese government, and UN agencies are intensifying support to authorities there to mobilize relief efforts. WHO and other UN agencies are preparing to send further medical supplies and emergency equipment requested by the Government. WHO has already acquired emergency medical supplies locally in China and given them to local authorities to assist in the provision of health care for survivors in the affected area. These include rapid water quality testing instruments, chlorine disinfectant equipment, drinking water treatment equipment and mobile sanitation facilities.

WHO has been providing the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Center for Disease Control with ongoing technical assistance and materials on health emergency management and preventing the spread of communicable diseases.

Source: World Health Organization