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Lankan infrastructure prevented epidemics: WHO

Lanka's amazing health infrastructure helped prevent the spread of diseases, reports PK Balachanddran.
PTI | By PK Balachanddran, Colombo
UPDATED ON JAN 12, 2005 03:14 AM IST

Sri Lanka's "amazing" health infrastructure helped prevent the spread of diseases and epidemics after the tsunami attack of December 26, says Dr Kan Tun, Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Sri Lanka.

"I have seen the infrastructure for the last four years. It is amazing," Dr Tun said on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka's medical personnel were also "very proactive," he said.

The medical infrastructure was good in the LTTE-held areas of the island also. "It had improved a lot in the last two years of peace," Dr Tun said.

As in the rest of Sri Lanka, the local and international agencies were working together closely in the LTTE-controlled areas, he added.

Dr Tun said that he was impressed with the logistical support that relief work got in Sri Lanka. WHO logisticians were working in close collaboration with local and governmental agencies in all the affected regions of the island.

Logistics are very important because medicines have a limited shelf-life.

Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, Southeast Asia Regional Director of WHO, said that the guidelines and manuals on emergency health management already given by WHO to the Sri Lankan health workers, were followed by them to very good effect.

"We have had no reports of disease or epidemic in any of the countries hit by the tsunami, but we are watching for water, food and vector borne diseases," he said.

"For vector borne diseases to strike, it will take two weeks. It is now two weeks since the disaster struck. This is the time to be vigilant," he warned.

Dr Abdul Sattar Yoosuf, Director, Healthy Environment, said that health officials should see that water did not stagnate, and for this, they would have to clear the area of debris before the rains came.

Accent should also be on the provision of a large number of clean toilets and clean water for drinking and bathing, he stressed.

Dr Plianbangchang said that WHO was moving in a "big way" to tackle the psychosocial consequences of the disaster. Professionals from the world over were joining in the effort to tackle this problem in Sri Lanka, Aceh and Thailand, he said.

Dr Tun added that Sri Lanka would get 24 experts in psychosocial problems. Out of these, 18 are already working in Jaffna, in the East and the South.

WHO was providing nutrition also, because a weak people would not be able to resist diseases and epidemics, Dr Plianbangchang said.

"WHO is working on restoring the basic health services which had also been hit. It would also help make the system capable of coping with uncertainties like tsunami in the future," he said.

WHO has US$ 20 million in hand to spend on the countries hit by the tsunami out of the $ 66 million pledged for the first phase. For the second phase, the organisation was expecting an allocation of $ 121 million, Dr Plianbangchang said.

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