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Famine relief and health care

The number of deaths caused by the ongoing drought in southern Africa could be greatly reduced by improving basic health care, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It argues that rainfall failure has triggered a crisis in healthcare systems that were already suffering from long-term deterioration. Some countries in the region, such as Malawi and Mozambique, are running health care systems on a budget of $10 per person per year, so shortages of essential medicines and other health supplies in health centres are common. Low salaries and difficult working conditions for health care workers have led to a 'skills drain', says the WHO. It suggests that countries, as well as distributing food aid, need to strengthen their capacity to provide health care in the worst affected areas. Improving access to drugs and increasing staff levels are key recommendations.

Vass A (2002). Famine relief must also tackle health care. BMJ, Vol 325, 17th August 2002, pp 355

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Famine relief and health care. Field Exchange 18, March 2003. p12. www.ennonline.net/fex/18/health

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