National Medical Associations quick to join global relief effort

National Medical Associations around the world have been quick to assist the global relief effort in the areas worst hit by the south east Asian tsunami.

Information so far indicates that many associations are actively helping theaid effort, among them:

  • the Finnish Medical Association made an immediate donation to the Red Cross and is now seeking donations from individual physicians;
  • the Czech Medical Association also raised funds for aid and is in cooperation with national and international relief organizations;
  • the Korean Medical Association has set up a medical team which is being sent to Jakarta and Sri Lanka;
  • the German Medical Association joined the national German appeal and the State Chamber of Lower Saxony decided to call off its New Year's reception and instead donate the money to the relief effort;
  • the Hong Kong Medical Association has formed an emergency task force and is helping the six major relief organisations in Hong Kong to raise funds and organising a series of charity events;
  • the Austrian Medical Chamber has installed a coordination hotline where the names of physicians of all specialities with diplomas in emergency medicine can be posted on a website for assistance to the Red Cross. In addition to helping reconstruct basic medical care, they will be available to take care of the Austrian victims. The Austrian State Medical Chambers have organised a fund raising campaign among Austrian doctors;
  • the Norwegian Medical Association has given money to both the Red Cross and to Medicines Sans Frontieres. It has been co-operating with the Norwegian health authorities helping to arrange medical teams at the airport to give medical service to people coming home from areas which were hit by the tsunami. It has informed public health advisors in all the 435 districts to plan receiving people with both psychological and physical traumas. It has also called for physicians to volunteer to provide medical services in the affected areas. So far 30 physicians have come forward to help the Red Cross and Medicines Sans Frontieres;
  • the Australian Medical Association has been involved in fund raising and in helping with a surge of medical personnel wanting to help in the crisis. A hotline for professionals has been set up by the government and around 2000 doctors have placed their names on the emergency list;

Dr Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General designate of the World Medical Association, said:

'The WMA's immediate plea last week in the first 48 hours after the disaster was to call for physicians to help in the relief effort. Now my plea to physicians and national medical associations is for money. At the moment the provision of clean water and sanitation and the establishment of sufficient transport capacities are the highest priorities.

'What the relief organizations need right now is money, money, money. They are moving their physicians who are properly trained and prepared (e.g. properly immunized) for such a task into the areas. Right now they can use only these physicians.'

Dr Yank Coble, president of the WMA, who has been in contact with the World Health Organisation, added: 'It may be that with the escalation of medical problems in the area more medical personal will be needed. But as of today what is needed is money to buy badly needed resources, such as drugs and materials.'