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WHO says Burma’s health system improving

Jun 19, 2008 (AFP)‚ The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that the health system in cyclone-battered Burma was "back on its feet," but warned that disease risks still remained.

"I think we were able to provide a response that helped the health system back on its feet," said WHO health cluster coordinator Rudi Coninx, who has just spent several weeks in the country.

The WHO said it had played a key role in a comprehensive impact assessment conducted by the UN, the regional ASEAN grouping and Burma’s military government.

The military junta faced heavy criticism for several weeks after Cyclone Nargis first struck in early May for not allowing international aid workers full access to the country.

However, the situation has now improved and "we have our teams with international staff going now everywhere," Coninx told journalists.

The WHO said that in the first week of June, it recorded some 685 cases of acute respiratory infections, 117 cases of bloody diarrhoea, 542 cases of acute diarrhoea, 337 cases of trauma or injuries, five cases of malaria and three of suspected dengue fever.

Dengue fever remains a particular concern and the WHO along with the Burmese government and other health partners has drawn up a 766,000 dollar (494,272 euro) action plan for the next four months targeting around 8.5 million people.

The first priority of the plan is to target 2.5 million people living in 11 townships in Rangoon division with the highest dengue case reporting rates.

Thereafter the plan will focus on 1.9 million people in Irrawaddy division, and then 3.9 million people in all other Rangoon partnerships.

Dengue is endemic in Burma, and around half of all cases occur in the Rangoon and Irrawaddy regions.

"We identified a considerable increase in the risk of transmission of dengue due to population movement and displacement in urban areas" following the cyclone, said WHO expert Michael Nathan.

The WHO’s action plan will seek to both cut the number of mosquitoes — who transmit the disease — through environmental management and insecticide, and strengthen disease surveillance and case management.

More than 133,000 people were killed or are missing after the cyclone struck six weeks ago. Many were washed out to sea as a tidal surge wiped out their villages.


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