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Saturday, October 15, 2005

WHO believes earthquake disaster worse than December's tsunami

The following report appeared on the Reuters website on 14th of October.

PAKISTAN: WHO believes earthquake disaster worse than December's tsunami
14 Oct 2005 17:26:28 GMT
Source: IRIN
ISLAMABAD, 14 October (IRIN) - Leading international agencies believe the devastation caused by the earthquake that struck Pakistan last Saturday is still being underestimated. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the calamity was bigger in scale than the tsunami that struck East Asia last year and the long-term problems created as a consequence will prove more difficult to deal with.
"The number made homeless, the destruction of roads and infrastructure and the terrain over which the catastrophe has struck make this a bigger disaster than the tsunami," Hussain A Gezairy, WHO's regional director, told journalists on Thursday at the emergency health centre set up at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).
The earthquake has destroyed more than 80 percent of structures and buildings in parts of northern Pakistan. Many cities and villages in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the most affected areas, have been wiped out. More than four million people are affected, of whom one million are in acute need of help. More than 2 million people need to be re-housed, relief agencies say.
Gezairy said that as no roads were destroyed by the tsunami, destruction took place mainly within a few hundred metres along coastlines and it was far easier to assess the damage and plan relief.
"The fact only helicopters can reach so many mountain areas and that the affected areas are so remote, makes it extremely difficult to even gauge the full-scale of the damage and determine what needs to be done first," Gezairy explained.
According to the WHO, the number of health workers needed to be doubled or even tripled in some places. "There is a particularly urgent need for general practitioners with experience in emergencies and basic surgical skills. Paramedics, primary health care specialists and public health specialists, including epidemiologists, are also desperately needed," WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.
Although US $10 billion had been mobilised by the UN and world community, the WHO regional chief expressed concern that the amounts raised for tsunami victims "would not come in". Gezairy, however, stressed efforts were being made to promote more concern across the world and generate more funds.
Working with the Pakistan ministry of health in the largest operation ever launched in the country, the WHO has put hundreds of experts in the field.
The teams are set to work on building early-warning systems for disease surveillance and epidemic control. For this purpose, acting on WHO advice, the Pakistan military has already set up vaccination centres for relief workers along the roads to affected areas.
The poor sanitation conditions, hundreds of dead bodies still lying unburied and severe shortages of clean drinking water have made dangers presented by disease among the top concerns of relief agencies.
The WHO has already stated the situation seemed most alarming in major centres of destruction, particularly Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Balakot. The WHO is planning to deploy hundreds more medical staff in all affected areas to work alongside Pakistani medical teams.

This report can be found here.

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