WHO offers forensics assistance

PHUKET: The World Health Organization (WHO) has offered to send forensic scientists to Thailand to help identify tsunami victims, and has asked Thailand to support other countries hit by the tsunami.

Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia, said the organization would draw on experience gained after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

“One must always keep in mind that the way corpses are managed has a significant impact on the psycho-social wellbeing of surviving family members. Priority must be given to victim identification, which is becoming an increasingly specialized issue,” he explained.

The WHO also hopes to bring in experts from the Americas, with experience of natural disasters, to advise the Thai authorities on building hospitals and similar facilities. “It is important that the public health infrastructure can withstand and is spared from natural disasters,” said K. Samlee.

Thailand has expertise in areas such as disease surveillance and laboratory support and the WHO is asking Bangkok to share that knowledge with other tsunami-stricken nations, said Dr Samlee.

Dr Samlee and his WHO colleagues were on a two-day trip to Phuket and Phang Nga to assess public health services in areas affected by the tsunami.

The WHO Representative to Thailand, Dr William Aldis, has said that fish and other seafood products from the tsunami-affected areas are safe for consumption.

There was no epidemiological evidence or other indication of an increased risk of fish- or seafood-borne diseases in the region, he said.

He said Ministry of Public Health tests on more than 100 samples of fish and related products from the six tsunami-affected provinces had shown no evidence of contamination by disease or heavy metals such as lead, cadmium or arsenic.

But, he said, the WHO would continue to collaborate with national, regional and international partners to monitor and assess the safety of fish and fishery products, as well as other foods in the region, because they play a key role in the diet of local people.

Phuket News
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