Lao PDR: Ministry of Health and WHO issue joint warning of the dangers associated with floodwaters

As water levels continue to rise in many parts of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging residents to avoid wading through floodwaters.

“The surface may look calm, but many dangers can lurk underneath, including strong currents, broken debris and deadly diseases,” warned Minister of Health, Dr Bounkong Syhavong. “Please don’t wade through floodwater. If you have no other choice but to do so, please wear shoes and wash your feet immediately afterwards.”

Continued rain in the wake of Tropical Storm Son-Tinh has resulted in flooding in thirteen provinces. This is in addition to the catastrophic flash flooding which inundated villages downstream of a hydroelectric project in Attapeu Province on 23 July.

The Ministry of Health and WHO continue to work together with partners to respond to health needs in Attapeu and other flood-affected parts of the country.

WHO Representative, Dr Juliet Fleischl reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to supporting the Lao people in responding to the disaster: “WHO has been there in Attapeu since the very first days of the crisis. We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ministry of Health and our local and international partners in bringing life-saving health services to affected communities”

In addition to the provision of health services, efforts are also underway to counter an increased risk of outbreaks of water-borne, food-borne and mosquito-borne diseases. Emergency disease surveillance is currently being established in the camps, to facilitate the prompt detection and response to disease outbreaks. Pest control fogging is being conducted to remove disease-carrying mosquitoes. In collaboration with UNICEF, children and pregnant women are being vaccinated and access to clean water and sanitation is being scaled up.

As in any large-scale disaster, a further urgent need is for mental health care. Earlier this week, a WHO mental health expert provided training to a team of local health workers from Mahosot Hospital. The team has now arrived in Attapeu and, accompanied by WHO, are providing psychological first aid.