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South East Asian Health Ministers Adopt Declaration To Improve Disaster Preparedness, Address Childhood Diarrhea

Health ministers from 11 member states in the WHO’s South East Asian region on Tuesday at the 62nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for South East Asia adopted the Kathmandu Declaration on Protecting Health Facilities from Disasters, which commits them to make health facilities better prepared for health emergencies, Republica reports. The resolution aims to address the need for critically injured people to obtain “immediate medical attention after natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and cyclones,” Republica writes. The declaration says, “A health facility that can withstand a disaster and continue to function can be the difference between life and death.”

At the meeting, experts noted that building safe hospitals could save lives and money during emergency situations. They discussed what type of interventions could make health facilities safe and recommended that current structures be reinforced.

The health ministers also focused on diarrhea, which “is the second leading cause of child mortality in the region behind pneumonia,” the publication writes. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for South East Asia, said, “Diarrhea is also seriously under reported in the region. There is a need to focus on diarrhea and pneumonia in national health programs.”

In South East Asia, children under 5 years usually undergo about three episodes of acute diarrhea each year, the experts said at the meeting. The experts said that controlling diarrhea requires adequate amounts of safe water and improved sanitation. “The experts suggested exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, frequent hand-washing, proper nutrition, timely immunizations and improved case management with early oral rehydration therapy and zinc at both community and facility levels to lessen diarrhea related deaths,” according to Republica (9/8).