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close this bookInternational Health Relief Assistance - A Guide for Effective Aid (PAHO, 1990, 14 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentPrinciples of disaster assistance
View the documentAfter a disaster, do . . .
View the documentDiscourage sending . . .
View the documentConsult further about donations of . . .
View the documentMyths and realities of disasters
View the documentEffects of natural disasters on health
View the documentPan American Health Organization

Principles of disaster assistance


International health relief assistance, if provided effectively, can play an important role in a country's development.

This guide offers some suggestions on how to avoid past mistakes and make international health relief assistance truly effective.

· Don't stereotype the disaster. The effects of disasters on health differ according to the type of a disaster, the economic and political situation in the affected country, and degree to which its infrastructure is developed.

· It is unlikely that medical personnel will be required from abroad, given the capacity of Latin America and the Caribbean to mobilize health resources to respond to the immediate needs of disaster victims. In recent disasters local health personnel treated all injuries within the first 24 hours.

· The need for search and rescue, life-saving first aid and other immediate medical procedures is short-lived. International assistance usually arrives too late to meet short-term needs. Special caution is necessary when considering international assistance that is useless once the acute emergency phase has passed. This type of assistance includes personnel, specialized rescue equipment, mobile hospitals, and perishable items.

· International donors should not compete with each other to meet the most visible needs of an affected country. the quality and appropriateness of the assistance is more important than its size, monetary value or the speed with which it arrives.

· Emergency assistance should complement, not duplicate, efforts taken by the affected country. Some duplication is unavoidable as many countries and agencies worldwide hasten to meet the same needs real or presumed. However, this need not have negative consequences if the assistance can be used later for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

· Don 't overreact to media reports for urgent immediate international assistance. Despite the tragic images we are shown, get the overall picture and wait until pleas for aid have been formally issued.