Comprehensive measures needed to restore health system

in quake hit Gujarat says WHO



Ahmedabad, 6 February, 2001:  “As the health

infrastructure in the earthquake affected areas has

been almost totally destroyed, a major concern is the

reconstruction of the health system”, says WHO South

East Asia Regional Advisor for the Emergency and

Humanitarian Action(EHA), programme.


Dr.Eigil Sorenson who has been in close consultation

with the state and health authorities since the day

after the earthquake, says that many hospital and

primary health care centre buildings have collapsed,

and most of the district health staff are themselves

victims of the earthquake and have lost family members

and homes. Despite this, the health personnel are

responding heroically, and are providing health

services from temporary premises in tents, out of vans

or out in the open. National and international NGOs

are also providing health care services.


 WHO would offer its services to the State, initially

to set up temporary arrangements, and also in the long

term re-construction of the health system.  It would

provide technical advice and assist with medical and

planning expertise for an overview of the task ahead

and the strategies needed.


The South East Asia Regional Office of WHO has

mobilized 3 experts including Dr.Luis Jorge Perez,

Regional Advisor Emergency Health Preparedness from

PAHO who has recently provided technical advice to the

El Salvador earthquake, as well as WHO EHA experts

based in Indonesia and Nepal to support the country.

Together with experts from within the country in areas

of epidemiology, water and sanitation and information,

WHO has a 16 member team in the earthquake affected

areas. The WHO office has redeployed several of its

medical officers who were working on the polio and the

TB programmes to support the emergency work. The rapid

surveillance teams have fanned out across the affected

areas and are working under WHO guidance.   They would

also constitute rapid response teams to deal with

disease outbreaks and potential epidemics in

conjunction with the government. 25 vehicles are also

being put into operation.

WHO is seeking additional international funding for



After assessing the ground situation and seeing how at

present a large number of the affected population are

suffering from respiratory infections, WHO sees a

urgent need for shelter to protect people from

exposure and the very low night temperatures, typical

of the desert climate.


WHO is concerned about provision of safe water,

sanitation and the maintenance of hygiene, to ensure

that there is no notable increase in water borne

diseases which could lead to epidemics in post

disaster situations if left unchecked.  In many areas,

as the piped water system has been damaged in part,

the quality of water reaching is suspect. Water is

also being provided through tankers.  WHO is procuring

over 1000 chloroscopes at the request of the local

health authorities to enable checking of chlorine

content in water at the end point.


Another area of WHO concern is the very large number

of trauma cases- injuries, fractures and the many

amputations carried out particularly in the immediate

aftermath of the earthquake.  In many cases infection

has set in as the original treatment provided was

under difficult, often unhygienic conditions.  Under

normal circumstances, such cases must be followed up

to ensure there is no infection. Amputation cases need

to be followed by assessment of the possibilities for

reconstructive surgery, supported by physiotherapy and

rehabilitation. WHO would offer technical expertise in

assessing the scale of this need and the resources

needed to fulfill this.  The Agency would also offer

support to carry this out.


In the initial period WHO had provided medicines and

emergency health kits worth USD $450,000.