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Saturday, 1st January 2005

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 cope.
  • 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.

To donate

  • 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 ones.
  • 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: 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 own.

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 disaster.

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:

Control Room (24-hr),
Ministry of External Affairs,
New Delhi
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

  • Bangkok
    011 -66-2643-5262 or 011-66-2643-5000 Ext. 5003 or 5502
    Fax. 66-2643-5256

  • Phuket
    076-220-361 Fax 076-220-361


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

Sri Lanka:

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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