PLoS Medicine refocuses world's attention on the tsunami, six months on

The tsunami that decimated South East Asia on 26th December 2004 provoked an intense media and humanitarian response, but nowsix months laterthe worlds attention has moved on. A special issue of the open access global health journal PLoS Medicine revisits the health effects of the devastation.

The special issuea collection of seven articles, many authored by experts from countries affected by the tsunamiasks provocative questions of the international health community, governments, policymakers, the press, and the broader public:

  • Why were four times as many women killed as men? Rhona MacDonald of Oxfam explains how pre-existing gender disparities made women more vulnerable to death.

  • Should doctors allow reporters inside hospitals and clinics at times of natural disasters? Anant Bhan, a public health physician from India, was disturbed by intrusive media representations of the tsunami: We should not need to be voyeurs into the grief of vulnerable victims to launch an effective and humane response to any disaster.

  • What problems have been created by the mass burial of unidentified victims? Many mass burial sites were not planned and not well documented, which made identification of the deceased an almost impossible task, argues the Sri Lankan forensic pathologist Clifford Perera.

  • Was the humanitarian response guided by the best research evidence? Prathap Tharyan and colleagues from the Cochrane Collaboration say that some disaster response teams treated people with a psychological therapy called debriefing, which has been found to be ineffective or even harmful.

  • What are the long term psychological effects and how should the health community address them? Kaz de Jong and colleagues from Mdecins Sans Frontires discuss how their organization is responding to the Indonesian governments request for help in dealing with the psychosocial effects of the disaster.


Contact: Paul Ocampo
Public Library of Science

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