SUVA, 04 APRIL 2012 - As a joint coordinator for the health and nutrition cluster, WHO and UNICEF convened the first cluster meeting to identify the key health and nutrition priorities post-flooding and ensure the coherent and effective response of all agencies, organization and NGOs.

Preventing the spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, leptospirosis and typhoid fever, preventing potential malnutrition (particularly in children) and addressing mental health and psychosocial needs were identified by the health and nutrition cluster as key health priorities in the immediate and mid-term aftermath of the floods.

The health and nutrition cluster also expressed concerns regarding hygiene and sanitation conditions in some evacuation centers. An assessment is being planned in the coming days to identify health needs and how the gaps could be addressed.

The World Health Organization has advised people to take extra measures to prevent the spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, leptospirosis and typhoid fever following widespread flooding in most of the western parts of Fiji. Communities in flooded areas should also pay extra attention to possible waterborne and foodborne disease outbreaks.

Currently, WHO assists the Ministry of Health in developing key food safety messages for consumers, and in providing technical guidance for food safety officials. It has also offered technical support and assistance to the government in identifying major health risks and sector priorities, development of immediate sector response strategy and strengthening of surveillance and disease early warning system.

Dr Dong Il Ahn, WHO Representative/Director Pacific Technical Support, advised the public to take precautionary measures to avoid getting sick. These include

- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Boil drinking water.
- Avoid contact with floodwater or mud.
- Avoid consuming perishable and unpackaged food that has been in contact with flood water.
- If you get a fever or feel sick, visit your health centre immediately.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

WHO, together with its partners in the health and nutrition health cluster, composed of other UN agencies, will continue to work with the Ministry of Health to address the health needs in the communities affected by the floods and in the prevention of any disease outbreaks.