30 June 2009 – Extra funding is urgently needed to strengthen disease control efforts, re-stock rapidly dwindling supplies of essential drugs and improve access to reproductive health services in north-western Pakistan, where some 2 million people have been uprooted by violence, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) says.
Eric Laroche, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises, warned today that the agency could run out of supplies of some key drugs within two or three weeks without an injection of funding.
Dr. Laroche is currently in Pakistan to assess the situation and support the agency’s efforts to bring relief to civilians in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Fierce fighting between Government forces and armed militants, especially in the Swat Valley, have displaced waves of people this year, and left UN agencies scrambling to assist.
Dr. Laroche said that while he has been impressed by the level of services he has seen inside camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), he remains concerns about the vast majority of displaced who are now living with host communities in Pakistani towns and villages.
“The problem is, how we can reach these people,” Dr. Laroche said in an interview with UN Radio. “How can we make sure these people are going to be served the proper way?”
Dr. Laroche said it was vital to reinforce existing support structures and therefore to increase the number of health-care and other workers who can help the displaced, particularly women. The Assistant Director-General noted that ethnic Pashtun women prefer not to be treated by male doctors or medical staff.
“Therefore we need to have other women, Pashtun women doctors, Pashtun women workers, health workers, to be taking care of them… This is a major challenge.”
But he stressed that a lack of donor support for the health response to the situation in north-western Pakistan is particularly worrying.
“We have gotten only 27 per cent of what we were asking for. And what we are asking for is not even 10 per cent of the overall [total]. We are asking for $4 million.”
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