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Source: World Health Organization (WHO)
1 April 2007

Health action in crises
Highlights No 151 – 26 March to 1 April 2007

Each week, the World Health Organization Department for Health Action in Crises in Geneva produces information highlights on the health aspects of selected humanitarian crises. Drawing on the various WHO programmes, contributions cover activities from field and country offices and the support provided by WHO regional offices and Headquarters. The mandate of the WHO Departments specifically concerned with Emergency and Humanitarian Action in Crises is to increase the effectiveness of the WHO contribution to crisis preparedness and response, transition and recovery. This note, which is not exhaustive, is designed for internal use and does not reflect any official position of the WHO Secretariat.



Assessments and events:

• On 27 March, an earth embankment around a sewage reservoir collapsed at the Beit Lahia waste water treatment plant in north western Gaza, disgorging a river of waste and mud on the nearby village of Um Al Nasser.

• Five people are reported dead and 11 missing; a further 18 were injured while dozens of homes have been damaged or destroyed.

• The cause of the over flow is not yet clear, but there has been concern for a number of years at the lack of capacity of the treatment plant to absorb the ever expanding volume of waste.

• Meanwhile the strike in the West Bank continues. Vaccination programmes and dispensing of drugs to chronic patients is reduced to twice-weekly, while the entire primary health care services are closed. The MoH headquarters in Ramallah and Nablus are closed as well as the central laboratory in Ramallah.


• A UN interagency field visit was organized to Um Al Nasser immediately, followed by a meeting chaired by UNRWA, where a coordinated humanitarian response has been planned.

• The main health threats include the contamination of the water supply, the risks for food safety caused by lack of electricity, cooking facilities and potable water, as well as the mental health effects on the affected people.

• A rapid needs assessment conducted by WHO recommended:

.. Strengthening surveillance and developing contingency control plans;
.. Addressing environmental conditions, monitoring water quality, food inspection, and vector control; conducting public awareness campaigns and community training on post disaster health and safety measures;
.. Intensifying nutrition surveillance and micro-nutrient programme;
.. Monitoring the mental health of the affected population and ensuring the provision of posttraumatic counselling services;
.. Increasing the disaster response capacity of the local and national health sector.

• WHO continues to monitor the health workers strike in the West Bank.

• In 2006, WHO’s emergency activities were funded by the Organization’s Regular Budget and contributions from ECHO, Finland, Japan and Norway as well as the CERF.


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