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WHO rushes experts to quake-hit China

Experts, medical supplies and equipment reaches to China amid increasing fears of disease outbreaks more than a week after the devastating earthquake.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Beijing
UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2008 03:14 PM IST

The World Health Organisation said Thursday it was rushing experts, medical supplies and equipment to China amid increasing fears of disease outbreaks more than a week after the devastating earthquake.

The medical supplies will help treat 130,000 people, the UN body said, while the equipment will help ensure clean drinking water and proper sanitation -- vital for controlling any outbreak.

The experts will help in rebuilding health care services damaged by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12, which has killed more than 51,000 people in southwest China.

An epidemiologist has been sent to assist in disease surveillance control, the WHO said in a statement.

"WHO has already identified that the key health issue in the earthquake's aftermath is to prevent and control communicable disease outbreaks," WHO official Eric Laroche said.

"But the longer-term challenge is how to best rebuild its damaged health infrastructure."

The organisation said that a small boost in construction funding would be enough to enable health facilities to withstand natural disasters like earthquakes, at a time when their services would be the most needed.

Sichuan province, which suffered the brunt of the damage from the quake, is now facing a huge health problem as corpses begin to decompose and more than five million homeless people live in cramped, unsanitary conditions.

China has already cremated or buried 80 percent of the bodies, the civil affairs ministry said Tuesday, but a lot of animal and human corpses still remain out in the open or under rubble.

The equipment provided by the WHO includes 5,000 chlorine disinfection tablets, drinking-water treatment units and mobile toilets.

The organisation said it and other UN agencies were preparing to send further medical supplies and emergency equipment requested by the Chinese government.

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