News

Diseases Threaten Tsunami Victims, Health Experts Warn

Heda Bayron

As the death toll in Sunday's tsunamis continues to rise, health authorities are struggling to prevent the outbreak of diseases in the worst affected areas. The disaster hit poor countries whose health systems are inadequate to deal with the scale of the disaster, which may have killed more than 45,000 people.

Authorities in at least 10 Indian Ocean countries are scrambling to dispose of thousands of dead bodies left after walls of water slammed into coastal areas Sunday.

Health experts say the decomposing bodies of humans could contaminate drinking water. Thousands of displaced people are crammed in makeshift camps where poor sanitation could bring about a variety of illnesses.

"The water sources are affected. The food situation may be under stress. People cannot properly cook their food. Hand washing will suffer so that means your personal cleanliness is bad so automatically, it will be diarrheas of different kinds," said Dr. Han Heijnan, the regional advisor for water sanitation at the World Health Organization in New Delhi. "And then sometimes because of the wetness, and the general kind of distress that people are in they might also have a variety of respiratory infections."

Dr. Heijnan said it is a race against time to prevent such outbreaks.

"If people are coming together and maybe temporarily collected in a camp when people are already in a weak state of health, not so well-fed and with poor hygiene, yes, you really have to work fast in order to make sure that people are not falling into disease situation," he added.

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast off the Indonesian island of Sumatra Sunday triggered tidal waves in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands and as far as eastern Africa. Thousands died and scores of people are still missing.

The nations hit hardest by the quake and tidal waves are poor and the scale of the catastrophe is straining their inadequate health systems.

In the low-lying island-nation of Maldives, health authorities are struggling to deliver what little assistance they can to thousands of victims, some on remote atolls.

Dr. Sheena Moosa, deputy director of health services in the Maldives, says the Maldives lacks medical workers and has little equipment to treat major illnesses.

The thousands of Maldives residents are now packed into shelters. Dr. Moosa says diseases already are spreading among the evacuees.

"The sanitation problem is very bad and water shortage is very, very bad," said Dr. Moosa. "Because the islands have been flooded from one side to the other, the water tanks, the ones that are not fixed to the ground, have been wiped away and the ones on the ground are contaminated. And transporting them, we do not have enough containers to transport water."

Other experts are concerned about the invisible injuries that many of the victims suffer.

Gloria Chen, a spokeswoman for the medical relief agency, Doctors Without Borders, in Hong Kong says psychological problems are harder to heal.

"From our past experience, the people who have undergone such a tragic situation are highly traumatized as they have lost their loved ones, the mental consequences could last for months and even years," she said.

The United Nations says the disaster is the worst in recent history and it is mounting the largest relief effort ever.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs