BANDA ACEH/DELHI/GENEVA -- The World Health Organization (WHO) warned about increased risk of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever across tsunami-affected areas in
Most affected countries in the region are endemic for dengue fever and malaria except the
"To reduce the risk of a dengue fever or malaria cases, WHO is strengthening its support to national authorities to implement effective vector-borne disease prevention and control activities," said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for South-East Asia region. "WHO is working with national authorities and international teams in the region to conduct entomological surveys in affected districts with local staff being trained on the job. WHO is also making accessible insecticide-treated bed-nets, vector control supplies, and equipment for larviciding and fogging with insecticides as a stopgap measure. In addition, health workers are starting to involve the community to clean up the Aedes mosquito breeding sites in the open water containers and debris around camps and homes," added Samlee.
Experts have been deployed and an early warning and surveillance systems has been established in affected regions. Public health laboratory services are being restored including provision of rapid diagnostic kits, medical supplies and equipment, and training of local health workers.
WHO, with national authorities, are increasing awareness among national and international personnel regarding risk of dengue infection. "Proper management of dengue hemorrhage fever can reduce fatality rates and save many lives," said Samlee.
In Sri Lanka, WHO and UNICEF have provided long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) to displaced individuals and families for malaria prevention, along with other key supplies such as insecticides, fogging machines and spray tanks (as well as the hiring of vehicles for spraying activities). WHO also assists in the clean-up of debris in which water collects, to prevent the formation of dengue breeding sites.
A generous outpouring of donations targeting vector-control efforts is facilitating the task. In Banda Aceh alone, some 100,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets, 20,000 rapid diagnostic tests for malaria and 150,000 treatment courses of artemisinin-based combination therapy -- the most effective available antimalarial treatment -- have been made available by private donors and UN agencies.
Providing support to countries to implement vector control strategies including establishment of a proper drainage system and engineering methods are key components of WHO's long-term strategy to rehabilitate the damaged or destroyed public health infrastructure. To implement this health system rehabilitation strategy, WHO urgently requires $67 million for activities through the next six months.