Up to five million people in the tsunami-struck Indian Ocean region lack access to the basic supplies they need to stay alive, such as clean water, shelter, food, sanitation and health care, the United Nations health agency said Thursday.
The World Health Organization estimated it needs $40 million to get those supplies to 3-5 million people in the devastated area.
"This is the most serious natural disaster to affect the region for several decades," said WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook. "The health needs of the populations affected are immediate and substantial."
Dr. David Nabarro, head of crisis operations at WHO, said agencies must move quickly to prevent diseases that could kill as many peopl as the Sunday's quake and tsunamis dead.
"The tsunami was not preventable, but preventing unnecessary deaths and suffering is," he said.
The next few days will be critical in controlling any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases, Nabarro told The Associated Press.