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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

Discourage sending . . .

Used clothing, shoes, etc.: in most cases, the local community donates more than enough of these items to meet the demand. It is more economical, convenient and sanitary to purchase items locally than to ship used items. Refer offers of this type of assistance to local charities or voluntary agencies.

Household foods: the same applies for food items. A disaster is not likely to cause a national food shortage in Latin America and the Caribbean, although the international media may highlight local distribution problems.

Household medicines or prescriptions: these items are medically and legally inappropriate. Pharmaceutical products take up needed space and divert the attention of medical personnel from other more pressing tasks to sort, classify, and label them.

Blood and blood derivatives: there is much less need for blood than the public commonly believes. In recent disasters in Latin America, local blood donors in the affected country have covered the victims' needs This type of donation is unsuitable because it requires quality and safety controls, such as refrigeration or screening for detection of AIDS antibodies.

Medical or paramedical personnel or teams: Local health services are able to handle emergency medical care to disaster victims. In fact, most countries have a relatively high physician-to-population ratio.

If international aid is needed, neighboring countries are in the best position to assist during the first 24 hours. Exceptions to this are highly-skilled specialists who have been specifically requested by the Ministry of Health. Foreign medical or paramedical personnel who are unfamiliar with local language and conditions should be encouraged to remain at home.

Field hospitals, modular medical units: considering that this type of equipment is justified only when it meets mediumterm needs, it should not be accepted unless it is donated. Equipment specifications, such as weight, volume, freight and installation costs, should be transmitted to the Ministry of Health so that they can decide on it usefulness.