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Saturday, 1st January 2005
WHO warns up to five million people without access to basic services in
Southeast Asia. To address the immediate public health needs and respond to this
major catastrophe, WHO estimates that it will need US$ 40 million.
30 DECEMBER 2004 | GENEVA -- The World Health Organization (WHO)
today said urgent action is needed to address the emerging public health
needs of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Between three and five million people in the region are unable to access
the basic requirements they need to stay alive - clean water, adequate
shelter, food, sanitation and healthcare.
To address the immediate public health needs and respond to this
major catastrophe, WHO estimates that it will need US$ 40 million.
"Four days after the tsunami struck the coasts of Southeast Asia, we
now have a clearer picture of the extent of the devastation and human
suffering which has occurred," said Dr LEE, Jong-wook, Director-General,
WHO. "This is the most serious natural disaster to affect the region for
several decades. The health needs of the populations affected are
immediate and substantial."
"Unless the necessary funds are urgently mobilized and coordinated in
the field," commented Dr David Nabarro, WHO Representative for Health
Action in Crises, "we could see as many fatalities from diseases as we
have seen from the actual disaster itself. The tsunami was not
preventable, but preventing unnecessary deaths and suffering is."
While information is still scarce after the devastating tsunami, WHO
and its United Nations and nongovernmental organization partners are
completing preliminary assessments of the human consequences of this
disaster. Current estimates put the number of dead at more than 80 000,
with as many as 300 000 people injured, many need urgent medical or
surgical treatment. Countless other survivors are at risk of infectious
diseases or aggravating existing health conditions. In Indonesia, for
example, on the coast of Aceh, only one hospital remains operational. No
electricity or fuel is available. In Sri Lanka, much of the public
health infrastructure in coastal areas is reportedly damaged and
functional units are overwhelmed.
WHO has deployed emergency teams in the most severely-affected
countries; Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives, working on developing
estimates of the damage done to health infrastructures and of the
affected populations needs' in terms of medical supplies and care.
Based on preliminary assessments, the following are the immediate and
longer-term priorities in terms of health concerns:
- Providing medical assistance to the hundreds of thousands of
injured people. Some hospitals are overwhelmed by the influx of
injured. Doctors and health workers are working around the clock to
- Ensuring that clean water in adequate quantity is available to
all affected populations, together with adequate and sufficient
sanitation facilities in temporary camps and settlements to reduce
the risk of outbreaks of different diarrhoeal diseases such as
diarrhea and dysentery.
- Ensuring that survivors who have lost their homes do not live in
conditions that are overcrowded, unhygienic and/or dangerous. Such
conditions increase the risk of acute respiratory infections that
can quickly develop into pneumonia and emerge as major causes of
death - especially among children and old people, if left untreated.
Across the region, essential medicines and trained health care
workers must be easily accessible for all affected population.
- Strengthening disease surveillance for epidemic-prone diseases
including malaria and dengue fever. Flooding and stagnant water will
create favorable conditions for the mosquito vector and heighten
epidemic risk for individuals and communities in overcrowded
conditions and temporary shelters.
WHO is helping local and national authorities respond to the human
crisis and enable survivors to stay alive; to help the international
community focus its aid so that it can be used quickly and well; and to
ensure that health services are re-established as soon as possible.
WHO has already dispatched 33 Emergency Health Kits, providing basic
medicines and equipment to more than 330 000 people for three months.
Priority is given to ensure that essential medicines, rehydration salts,
intra-venous fluids and other vital items are available where needed.
- via phone ? 1-800-HELP-NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish)
- via online ? donate securely at
- via mail ? mail contributions to your local American Red Cross
chapter or to:
American Red Cross International Response Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013
Information on contacting persons in affected areas
- Continue to try and contact your loved ones through normal means
of communication. Phone and cellular service has been possible ?
though sporadic ? in some parts of the area.
- If you have relatives living outside the affected area, keep in
contact with them as they may have received news about your loved
- Continue to check the American Red Cross website for updates.
- Register on Family Links The growing concern for missing loved
ones has prompted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
to establish a section for the Bay of Bengal disaster on their
Family Links Website. This site offers family members an opportunity
to search for missing relatives? names. If inquirers cannot locate
their family member on the Website they can post their own name or
the name of the missing family member. The Website is:
www.familylinks.icrc.org. The information is not verified or tracked
by either the ICRC or the American Red Cross but is offered by the
ICRC as a stand-alone internet tool for inquirers to use on their
U.S. Citizens in affected areas:
Information about U.S. citizens in affected areas may be obtained
from the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services,
at 1-888-407-4747(local Washington DC area 202-647-4000 and ask for the
Consular Affairs Task Force) overseas callers at 317-472-2328. Note that
these phone lines are frequently busy during the first days of a large
Non- U.S. Citizens in affected areas:
the Indian Ministry of External Affairs has set up control rooms with
hotline phone numbers in New Delhi to respond to calls regarding the
disaster. This information is posted on the Ministry of External Affairs
website at: http://meaindia.nic.in/.
Control Room (24-hr),
Ministry of External Affairs,
Tel.No. 011-91-11-2301-1954, 011-91-2301-2292, 011-91-11-2301-7160
Fax.No. 011-91-11-2301-3945, 011-91-2301-0889
Family members living in the US are encouraged to visit the Royal
Thai Embassy website:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the Ministry of
Interior has set up a Coordinating Center for people in Thailand
affected by the Tsunamis. The Center will operate 24 hours a day. There
are several phone numbers provided for the Coordinating Centers in
Bangkok: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Coordinating Centre
Families should contact the government of Malaysia?s 24 hour crisis
hotline at the Royal Malaysian Police Headquarters. Tel:
011-60-3-2262-6555 or fax 011-60-3-2691-0707. Families can also send an
email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established a 24 Hour Assistance
Unit to assist with queries from the Sri Lankan expatriate community and
foreign nationals regarding the whereabouts of friends/relatives in Sri
Lanka or those presently visiting the country. Two short Emergency
Information Forms have been designed to be completed by those seeking
information regarding their friends/relatives. One form is for Sri
Lankan Nationals and the other for Foreign Nationals. Find the relevant
form and other helpful information on the Sri Lanka Embassy website
Office of the Coordinating Ministry of Social Welfare. Tel/Fax:
011-62-21-345-3676 or 011-62-21-345-9102. Contact persons: Mr. Dody
Budiatman (cell phone: 011-62-818-830-076) and Ms. Sitti Rahayu Hidayati
(Cell phone: 011-62-812-826-7594)
Information on volunteering
The American Red Cross maintains a specially trained team of relief
workers experienced with responding to disasters of this nature and does
not anticipate a need for volunteers. Interested persons are encouraged
to contact their local American Red Cross chapter for volunteer
opportunities now and in the future.
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