March 21, 2018
21 MARCH 2018, PORT MORESBY
- A third of all health
facilities have closed in Hela and Southern Highlands provinces as
a result of the Papua New Guinea earthquake.
On 26 February, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea,
triggering landslides, affecting water sources and wiping out
houses, health facilities, people and crops.
More than 190 aftershocks have been recorded, according to the
United States Geological Survey, including one as recently as 20
Results of a joint National Department of Health (NDOH) and World
Health Organisation (WHO) assessment show that 25 out of 77 health
facilities in the two worst-affected provinces are no longer
The total number of closed facilities is potentially higher, as
data from eight health centres remains unavailable due to access
This disruption to health service provision comes at a time when
people are most in need of care, said Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO
Representative to Papua New Guinea.
As aftershocks continue, affected communities are dealing
with injuries and psychological trauma.
"Were also worried about potential outbreaks of epidemic-prone
"We must move swiftly to restore health services.
Overcrowding in informal camps and a lack of access to clean
drinking water and sanitation increase the risk of disease
Vaccination coverage was low prior to the earthquake and the
country was already facing outbreaks of malaria, pertussis and
Roads, rivers, airfields and bridges have been impacted by the
earthquake in a part of the country prone to violence and
Access to affected communities has therefore been extremely
Responding to the health needs in Papua New Guinea is definitely
not easy, said Dr Luo.
But were determined to find ways, alongside our partners, to
deliver life-saving health services to even the hardest to reach
WHO is supporting the National Department of Health (NDOH),
provincial health authorities and partners with information
management, technical guidance and logistics.
As the Health Cluster lead agency, WHO plays an active role in
coordinating the activities of 25 health partners in order to align
efforts, fill gaps, avoid duplication and ensure that response
efforts reach those most in need.
The organisation is also supporting the strengthening of disease
surveillance and has pre-positioned medical supplies in preparation
for potential outbreaks, including seven diarrhoeal disease kits
and rapid diagnostic tests for dengue.