|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 60 - October, 1994 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1994, 8 p.)|
IDNDR Day, 1994: Protecting Vulnerable Communities
Gross national product lost as a result of disasters is estimated to be 20 times greater in developing countries than industrialized ones. Without preparedness and rehabilitation plans that address the needs of vulnerable groups in environmentally precarious areas, disasters are likely to cause ever-greater damage to communities.
According to Dr. Olavi Elo, Director of the IDNDR Secretariat, these issues were central to debates held during the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction in Yokohama in May, and delegates pledged to work within their local communities and with national authorities to reduce the vulnerability of the most disadvantaged. Protecting vulnerable communities from the effects of natural disasters was chosen as the theme-for this year's International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, celebrated on 12 October.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, workshops, simulations, school contests, and press conferences focusing on this theme took place throughout the month of October. The IDNDR Office for Latin America and the Caribbean joined the Regional Delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and PAHO/WHO to distribute materials on the problems of the most vulnerable and on efforts being made to solve them. To receive copies of this documentation, please contact the IDNDR Regional Office, Apartado Postal 3745, San Jose, Costa Rica.
OAS Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project
Since its initiation one year ago, the Organization of American States (OAS), through its Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project (CDMP), has carried out activities ranging from storm hazard mapping to retrofitting of housing. Some of the features of the Project are:
· A Caribbean Basin database developed for Jamaican storm hazard assessment is being applied in the Eastern Caribbean; mapping exercises will be initiated by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency and the Caribbean Meteorological Institute.
· Private sector and nongovernmental institutions are working in the Dominican Republic to coordinate resources in disaster prevention efforts at the local level.
· Based on the success of Jamaica's Construction Resources and Development Center in promoting safe construction practices, retrofitting of housing and safe construction projects in Dominica and St. Lucia will begin on a pilot basis. Also in St. Lucia, vulnerability assessment of the electrical services utility has been initiated.
Information on these projects can be requested from Mr. Keith Ford, CDMP Regional Field Office, c/o Office of the OAS General Secretariat in Jamaica, PO Box 205, Kingston 10, Jamaica; Fax: (809) 929-6792.
Delivery humanitarian assistance in Haiti
Since the 1991 military coup in Haiti, the PAHO/WHO Representation along with local and international NGOs and other international agencies have worked under very difficult circumstances to try to lessen the dramatic decline of health and sanitary conditions in that country. As the international embargo made the delivery of humanitarian assistance more difficult, PAHO/WHO took on new challenges to keep these efforts from coming to a halt.
In January, the United Nations and Organization of American States requested PAHO to coordinate the purchase and distribution of fuel to relief providers who met strict humanitarian criteria, thus allowing hospital generators to continue running, delivery of emergency food rations to over one million Haitians, and maintenance of water supply systems in the country. When commercial air traffic into Haiti was cut off, the PAHO Emergency Preparedness Program obtained clearances and chartered aircraft to carry emergency medical supplies provided by PAHO and other agencies and NGOs. Essential personnel working in humanitarian assistance programs in Haiti were also on board. Beginning in early August, one or two flights left Miami for Port-au-Prince on a weekly basis.
With the expected influx of relief supplies that will follow the lifting of the embargo, the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN/DHA) is working with a recently trained team of Haitians to activate SUMA, the Supply Management Project, for the inventory of incoming shipments. New elements have been added to the SUMA software, one of which is a means of categorizing materials that are in "the pipeline" or that have been requested from donors.
Civilians unload emergency relief supplies from a PAHO-chartered flight at the Port-au-Prince airport shortly after the U.S. military occupation of Haiti.
Photo: PAHO/WHO, Jean Luc