WHO sets up disease surveillance system in Myanmar


New Delhi 04 June 2008 - A system to detect and report potential disease outbreaks early in Myanmar’s cyclone-affected areas has been put into action by the World Health Organization and health cluster partners. The Early Warning Reporting System (EWARS) has been established to support the Myanmar, Ministry of Health to provide quick and accurate information on diseases. It does this by collecting information from health sector partners, verifying rumors of outbreaks as well as through formal reporting methods. Verifying such information at an early stage allows prompt containment of diseases and prevents outbreaks.

“We are working with the Government of Myanmar to further strengthen the existing health system including disease surveillance. WHO is advocating a community-based approach and the use of appropriate technologies to help the survivors,” said Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

EWARS is particularly significant as water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue could pose a health challenge during the monsoons. The intrusion of salty water inland makes ideal breeding sites for Anopheles Sundaicus, the malaria vectors in the coastal areas, and early rains favors breeding of other malaria vectors. Displaced populations without the support of normal health services are more susceptible to such diseases.

“We are training international and national medical teams on malaria and dengue control. Insecticide- treated bednets, malaria drugs for 120 000 cases, fogging machines, 2000 liters of insecticides and 5 tonnes of larvicides have been supplied by WHO and health partners” said Dr Poonam Singh, Deputy Regional Director for WHO’s South-East Asia on her return from Myanmar. “Access to clean water and sanitation is key to improving the health situation on the ground,” she added

WHO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, has conducted briefings and induction for medical teams from ASEAN countries that have already arrived in Myanmar. Medical teams from more than several countries are expected to arrive in Myanmar in the next 3-6 months.

WHO and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are conducting training of volunteers deployed in the affected areas. Over 350 participants have been trained for malaria and dengue prevention and control. WHO is working with Ministry of health, Myanmar to strengthen Rapid Response Team capacities at the township level. The capacity of the Central Laboratory in Yangon is being strengthened. Kits for specimen collection have been ordered and will be distributed in each township.

WHO is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to train all doctors (national and from INGOs) in delivery of basic mental health services. Standards set by WHO for mental health and psychosocial support in disasters are being used to train master trainers who will in turn train community workers.

WHO and Health Cluster partners have supplied more than 650 tones of medical supplies to the cyclone affected people so far.

For further information, go to: http://www.searo.who.int

New Delhi: Ms Vismita Gupta-Smith, Public Information and Advocacy officer, WHO South-East Asia Region Tel: +91-11-23309401, e-mail: guptasmithv@searo.who.int;

Bangkok: Mr Chadin Tephaval, Communications Officer WHO Thailand, Tel: +62-2-5807535 email: chadin@searo.who.int;

Geneva: Mr Paul Garwood, Communications Officer WHO Health Action in Crises (Geneva), cell phone +41-794755546 garwoodp@who.int