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Relocation of health workers to quake areas planned

April 28, 2006

ISLAMABAD, April 27: The United Nations and the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority are planning to temporarily relocate senior health workers to the affected areas to ensure continuity of health services.

UN Resident Coordinator Jan Vandemoortele, while explaining the concept at a discussion forum, said lady health visitors in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad can spend one week in affected areas without being permanently relocated.

Between relief and reconstruction, there is a very vulnerable phase when people are moving back from camps to villages and it is critical to maintain health services during that period.

“Relief operation is coming to an end and we have to make sure that the transition phase is managed properly and now that the people are returning to their places of origin, there are BHUs that are being set up — over 150 are in the process with the support of WHO, Unicef and UNFPA,” he said.

Substantive reconstruction of the health facilities is required, as over 500 of them were destroyed during the earthquake.

WHO representative Dr Khalif Bile said in the recovery phase it was imperative to provide and sustain essential health services, which was basically the reactivation of primary healthcare system.

However, he noted that it was always interesting and fashionable to work only on hospitals. Besides, he said, WHO had built a very strong network of disease surveillance. “We don’t want to lose that system and it needs to be integrated into the district and provincial health system.”

Dr Rayana Buhakah, the head of WHO health cluster, said in coming 10 days over 35 BHUs would be handed over to the districts. “We have very few months left before the onset of next winter,” she remarked while stressing on the need for expediting the process of operationalising the grassroots health system.

HELICOPTERS: Regarding the decrease in the number of helicopters, Mr Vandemoortele informed the meeting that the requirement would be filled in mostly by vehicles.

About the exact need of airframes, he said it was difficult to pin-point whether we need 12 or six or four. We had planned for four beyond the winter; we have some identified needs in the areas of origin so as to transport the agricultural implements. Last few weeks, mostly it was non-food items and mostly fertilisers and seeds. We want to make sure we will have four helicopters flying up to September and we think that we have the finances to keep that going.”

In case more are needed, the UN would make the case and would go back to the donors.