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Published On: Mon, Jun 16th, 2014

Iraq crisis prompts WHO action: Polio, measles and diarrhea of utmost concern

With the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, the World Health Organization (WHO)  is working with local and international partners in Iraq to meet the urgent health needs of populations affected by the ongoing crisis.

The regions of Ninewa, Salaheddin and Diyala provinces have been hit extraordinarily hard.  More than 500 000 people are estimated to have fled their homes in Mosul and surrounding areas. An estimated 100 000 have entered Erbil and 200 000 have fled to Dohuk. Almost 25 000 are seeking shelter in schools and mosques in Mosul City, many with no access to drinking- water, as the main water station for the area was destroyed by bombing, and food shortages are being reported. As the fighting continues, hundreds of thousands more are stranded at checkpoints with no belongings or money for housing, food, water or medical care. Accurate figures of casualties are unavailable but stand in the hundreds.

WHO is concerned about the health situation, which is expected to deteriorate given increasing numbers of people requiring humanitarian assistance and the difficulties faced in channelling human resources and logistics from Baghdad to affected areas.

Immediate and critical health risks of concern to WHO include the spread of measles, which is endemic in Mosul and could potentially lead to outbreaks, especially in overcrowded areas where internally-displaced persons are located. The spread of polio is also a high risk as new cases were reported in the country earlier this year as a result of the Syria crisis.

To monitor disease outbreaks, WHO has strengthened its disease early warning alert and response system in Kurdistan and Mosul. WHO is also launching emergency polio and measles vaccination activities for internally-displaced persons with the directorates of health in Dohuk and Erbil.

As water and sanitation services are likely to be interrupted as a result of the crisis, there is an increased risk of waterborne diseases, such as acute watery diarrhoea, especially as temperatures rise during the coming summer months. A team from WHO is currently on the ground assessing the risk of epidemics in affected areas and will ensure that systems are in place to rapidly respond and contain disease outbreaks.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Too Little, Too Late: Polio in Syria » Muftah says:

    […] to prevent polio’s rise is sadly lacking despite large-scale vaccination campaigns. The humanitarian crisis in Iraq, subsequent increase in internally displaced Iraqis, and inevitable strain on an already […]

  2. In Iraq, Freedom Is On the March! | Mike the Mad Biologist says:

    […] I write freedom? I meant polio and measles (boldface […]

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