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Health aid gets into Burma

12th May 2008

The flow of emergency medical supplies to Burma is improving in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Nargis, which has already caused at least 60,000 deaths, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

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Another UN plane arrived in Rangoon after several days of bureaucratic delays on the part of the secretive military government there, with a cargo of food aid and medical supplies, including a Diarrhoeal Disease Kit.

Non-government organisations have also been receiving supplies through various channels.

WHO has deployed 11 Regional Surveillance Officers to affected townships in the low-lying Irrawaddy delta, which was devastated by a 12-metre storm surge when Nargis made landfall in Burma.

A further five officers have been assigned to Rangoon district for the next two weeks to assess the situation and to delivering health relief items.

The news comes after several days of uncertainty during which the Burmese government refused to allow international disaster relief experts into the country, prompting the World Food Programme (WFP) temporarily to halt aid flights.

Meanwhile, WHO has delivered another two Inter-Agency Emergency Health Kits to the worst-hit cities of Bogale and Labutta, and will send four more kits today to Pyapon, Ngaputaw, Myaungmya, and Ma U Bin townships, where tens of thousands of refugees, many of them with infections in untreated injuries from the storm, are sheltering in makeshift camps in schools and other public buildings with no little or no medical care.

Health officials have requested a list of the essential supplies and medicines that need to be replenished urgently, amid allegations by survivors on the ground that supporters of the regime in Rangoon were being given preferential treatment when it came to the division of vital resources.

WHO said it would work with the health ministry to establish a revolving stock of drugs to ensure the continuing availability of essential medicines and supplies.

These will include 2,000 vials of anti-snake venom for Russel viper bites; snakebites have become a major health hazard in the delta in flooded areas of the delta, as the frightened reptiles swim around in floodwater.

This amount is enough to treat around 250 patients. Although there have been no reports of snake bites so far, the WHO an increase in cases in the next few days.

Meanwhile, UN aid workers have taken delivery of the first shipment of Reproductive Health kits, which help pregnant women to deliver their babies in sanitary conditions where hospital care is unavailable.

One kit provides enough reproductive health drugs and supplies for between 200,000 and 300,000 people, and the first one will be delivered to Thongwa township,

The UN has launched a global appeal for funding, while WHO has released another US$175,000 from its South East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund for Burma, to add to donations received from the United Kingdom and Italy.

All health partners are using the WHO surveillance form to collect and report information on the number and type of diseases and injuries in the affected areas, the WHO said in a statement on its website, which will be collected and analysed daily by the WHO office in Rangoon.

NGOs in the area include Medicins du Monde, Merlin, the National Red Cross and Malteser.

 

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