|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 56 - October, 1993 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1993, 8 p.)|
Argentina: New Coordinator of National Program
In March 1993, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare in Argentina designated Dr. Oscar Garcia Moreno, National Director of Social Emergencies, as the Executive Coordinator of the Commission for the National Program on Emergency Preparedness and Disasters which is within the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Dr. Garcia Romero can be contacted at the Ministerio de Salud y Acción Social, Defensa 120, (Of. 4080) 1345 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Colombia: PostGraduate Degree Emphasizes Disasters
In response to the growing demand of governments and communities to deal with the human dimension of disasters, the University of Antioquia, Faculty of Social Sciences is offering a Master's Degree in Contemporary Social Problems, with an emphasis on disasters and emergencies. This twoyear course of study will incorporate a social dimension into the disaster curriculum, ensuring that national, regional and local risk planning takes this perspective into account. For information on admissions requirements and curriculum write: University of Antioquia, Depto. de Trabajo Social, A.A. 1226, Medellín, Colombia; Fax: (574) 2638282.
National Congress Establishes Commission on Disasters
In recognition of the importance of incorporating disaster management programs at the ministerial level in Ecuador, the President of the Commission on Health and Environmental Health of Ecuador's National Congress established the Special Commission for the Study of DisasterRelated Issues on 23 September 1993. This decision was a direct result of the recommendations made at the Fifth Meeting of National Health Disaster Coordinators from Andean Countries (see story on page 5). More information is available from Dr. Fernando Guerrero, Diputado del Congreso Nacional del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador.
Colloquium on Josefïna Landslides
In July, the National Polytechnic Institute in Quito, with the support of USAID and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT), organized a colloquium on the March 1993 Josefina landslides that dammed rivers and caused serious flooding in the vicinity of Cuenca, Ecuador. Discussions focused on geological. hydrological, and environmental aspects of the event, as well as examining social and political implications of the disaster. For information on the results of the colloquium, contact Oficina de Desastres, c/o Representante de la OPS/OMS en Ecuador, Apartado Postal 17078982, Quito, Ecuador; fax (5932) 464630.
Trinidad: Caribbean Conference on Natural Hazards
The Seismic Research Unit of the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, Trinidad, celebrated its 40th anniversary in conjunction with IDNDR Day by sponsoring the "Caribbean Conference on Natural Hazards: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Windstorms, and Floods". Approximately 150 participants attended a week of sessions on a broad range of topics including seismic and meteorological research relevant to the Caribbean, and particular structural design and retrofitting measures to be applied to mitigate effects of disasters. Special workshops on reducing vulnerability in schools and hospitals were sponsored by PAHO and OAS, and progress being made toward achieving goals set by the IDNDR were discussed.
October is Civil Protection Month in Panama
Thanks to a Presidential Decree, since 1990 October has been designated "Civil Protection" month in Panama, and activities to increase public awareness about disaster preparedness and mitigation are highlighted. The Universidad Tecnologica de Panama created a special committee to develop training activities related to disasters, and along with the Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil organized the First Scientific Congress on Prevention, Mitigation, and Management of Disasters to coincide with IDNDR Day. Over 250 participants discussed activities and achievements in the country, and focused on research needs in the areas of natural hazards, structural and nonstructural mitigation measures, health and social aspects of disaster. The UTP also prepared a travelling exhibit showing mitigation techniques for building different types of homes in Panama.
Communities Prepare Risk Maps
For the past year, communities in the most heavily populated areas of Panama have been working to compile risk maps, which show both the hazards and resources in case of an emergency in neighborhoods of Panama City and San Miguelito. An estimated 70% of Panamanians live in metropolises, and such a project can go far in communities taking responsibility for preparedness. Panama's Ministry of Health is in the process of consolidating these maps and expects them to be ready shortly. For more information on this initiative please contact: Dra. Nilda Chong, Unidad de Desastres, Ministerio de Salud, Panama, D.F., Panama.
CARICOM Emphasizes Commitment to Prevention and Mitigation of Disasters
The Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is placing high priority on disaster reduction as a factor in the region's development, and studies have been commissioned to identify the most effective institutional mechanisms for promotion. Under consideration is the creation of a new organization or agency responsible for disaster prevention and mitigation, similar to the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) which was established for postdisaster response.
Health Sector Coordinators Welcome New Sector to Yearly Meeting
Each year, health sector disaster coordinators from the Caribbean, Central America, the Andean region and the Southern Cone meet regionally to discuss the progress made in their respective disaster programs and to chart future courses of action that might benefit from or be strengthened by a regional approach.
In August, the disaster coordinators from the Ministries of Health of the Andean Area (representing Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) met for the fifth time, this year in Colombia. They analyzed the difficulties encountered in promoting multilateral cooperation in the Andean region and identified closer and more frequent communication among professionals as an outstanding need.
This year's meeting was expanded to include the participation of a group who can make an important difference in terms of support for disaster preparedness and mitigation programs in the health sectorparliamentarians. Parliamentarians in the Andean region are crucial to the process of establishing a legal framework in which countries can advance disaster prevention and mitigation measures and coordinate each country's multisectoral response to disasters. These legislative bodies are also responsible for budgetary decisions. During the last decade the scope, and consequently the cost of disaster preparedness and mitigation activities increased dramatically, unfortunately just as the budgets of many Ministries declined. Although in some cases the Ministries of Health were able to mobilize ad hoc funding for certain activities, this left a degree of uncertainty in the planning process at the national level. Consequently, parliamentarians from the Andean region will continue to be invited to future regional activities in the coming years and will be encouraged to consider both legal and financial measures to strengthen health sector disaster mitigation.
For a copy of the complete recommendations of this important
meeting (in Spanish) write Dr. Luis Jorge Perez, OPS, Asesor Subregional de
Desastres, Apartado Postal 17078982, Quito, Ecuador.