ISLAMABAD, June 13: The World Health Organisation (WHO) will shortly start work on building 20 rural health centres in the quake-affected areas. “The work on the project being launched with the financial support of AmeriCares is expected to commence by the end of the current month,” sources told Dawn.

They said AmeriCares had signed a formal agreement with the WHO to provide financial support for building health facilities in Azad Kashmir and the NWFP.

AmeriCares will purchase the structures, fully equip each centre and supply essential medicines as well as an ambulance. In total, it will be spending $3.4 million to fund the project.

“The construction of these rural community health centres will help deliver comprehensive primary health care services to many people in the affected areas within a short period,” a WHO official said.

He said the people in the two regions still faced many challenges in terms of access to health care.

More than 60 per cent of the primary care facilities in these regions were damaged or destroyed during the October 8 quake.

The AmeriCares initiative will replace key facilities in critical areas. Each rural health centre — a small hospital — will serve a population of between 50,000 and 100,000 people. In total, the 20 hospitals will reach at least 1,000,000 people.

In October, AmeriCares delivered two airlifts carrying more than $8 million worth of essential medicines, tents and blankets. In early December, it delivered and constructed a field hospital that is currently providing medical care to 150,000 residents in the isolated Allai Valley. In an earlier collaborative effort with the WHO, the organisation delivered one million doses of HibTiter vaccine via airlift in late December.

AmeriCares is a US-based non-profit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organisation, which provides immediate response to emergency medical needs, as well as supporting long-term humanitarian assistance programmes around the world.