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close this bookDisasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 60 - October, 1994 (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1994, 8 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEmpowering local communities to reduce the effects of disasters
View the documentNews from PAHO/WHO
View the documentOther organizations
View the documentMember countries
View the documentReview of publications
View the documentUpcoming meetings
View the documentSelected bibliography

Member countries

Students Design Teaching Aids

Community service is a graduation requirement for most Costa Rican university students. Since 1986 the University of Costa Rica has collaborated with PAHO/WHO in training students to work with local communities in disaster preparedness. As one of their first activities, students created a flip-chart to help direct discussions at community meetings. Drawings depict natural hazards, mitigation measures, and activities that will build local involvement in disaster preparedness. The flipchart has been reproduced and is now being used by the Costa Rican Red Cross and Ministry of Health for community projects and in hospitals and health centers throughout the country. For information on the project, contact PAHO/WHO, Emergency Preparedness Program, Aptdo. 3745-1000, San José, Costa Rica; Fax: (506) 257 2139.

Storm ravages Saint Lucia

Tropical storm "Debby" brought heavy rainfall to St. Lucia resulting in island-wide landslides and flash floods in the early morning hours of Saturday, 10 September. Roads were blocked and bridges damaged by floods of mud, trees, and other debris. Coastal villages suffered severe damage as mud levels reached as high as 6 feet. Four persons were reported dead, and at the peak of the disaster, an estimated 500 required shelter. The banana and coconut crops, representing major cash crops for the island, suffered losses of between 70% and 80%.

An estimated 75% of the island's water supply and sanitation system was damaged. Most of the supply is dependent on river intakes in the mountains which were blocked with debris and silt. Transmission lines to treatment plants and storage reservoirs were damaged, and silt caused internal blockage of pipes. The population was instructed in water purification methods, and the neighboring islands of Martinique, Dominica, and St. Vincent provided water.

Another serious result of the storm was the destruction of the pediatrics wing of Victoria Hospital in Castries. It was evacuated prior to its failure, but it collapsed onto the first-floor x-ray unit, causing extensive damage to equipment.

Central American Community Projects Evaluated

Throughout the month of October, the emergency and disaster preparedness units of the Ministries of Health of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama are holding workshops to evaluate the status of projects that work to organize communities to prepare for disasters. Project leaders and community representatives will work with a facilitator who will provide a report on each session. To receive information on the outcome of these workshops please contact PAHO/WHO, Emergency Preparedness Program, Aptdo 3745-1000, San Jose, Costa Rica; Fax: (506) 257-2139.

Guatemalan Congress to Create Disaster Reduction System

National legislation is a strong indicator of a country's commitment to disaster reduction, and the Guatemalan Congress, through its Commission on Health and Social Security, is working to create a National System for Disaster Reduction. The legislation will define the responsibilities and activities of such a national system, its role in disaster response, and the coordination of other institutions that are called upon in the event of disasters. For more information on this initiative please contact Dr. Francisco Zambroni, PAHO/WHO, Apartado Postal 383, Guatemala City, Guatemala; Tel: (502-2) 322-032; Fax (5022) 343-804.

Peru Practices for the "Big One"

On July 15, at 11 a.m., power was cut and all vehicular traffic stopped as part of an earthquake simulation exercise in Peru's capital city, Lima. All public buildings were evacuated, and health centers activated their emergency plans. National and private institutes participated, and schools all over the country carried out emergency drills. The National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI), which organized the simulation, estimated that 3 million persons took part in the exercise.

INDECI also promoted a broad range of activities both for the disaster community and the general public in October, including children's painting contests, school evacuations, national journalism awards, and simulations throughout the country to commemorate International Natural Disaster Reduction Day.

Caribbean Media

Caribbean agencies are putting the final touches on a disaster information kit for the mass media. The kit is being assembled by a working group consisting of CDERA, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency; CERO, Barbados' Emergency Relief Office; PAHO and media specialists from the Caribbean. It is designed not only to guide the media in times of disaster by providing fact sheets on hazards in the Caribbean, lists of contact persons, and other ready-to-use information, but also to help the media promote disaster awareness in local communities in normal times. The kit is scheduled to be presented to Caribbean media at a regional meeting in December. More information will appear in a future issue of this Newsletter.

Emergency Plan for Health Sector in São Paulo

The Municipal Health Authority of São Paulo, Brazil, recently distributed a manual that outlines emergency procedures in the case of large-scale accidents or natural disasters. It establishes procedures to be followed by communications personnel, hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, technicians, and ambulance drivers, and provides central emergency contact numbers for different zones of the city. More information on this plan can be obtained from Dr. Carlos Eid, Rua Maestro Pedro Jatoba, 335, São Paulo, S.P., CEP 02373-060, Brazil; Fax: (55 - 11) 278-0653.

News on Disaster Medicine from Mexico

To keep the medical community informed about their activities, the Mexican Society of Emergency and Disaster Medicine began publishing a newsletter, "MediDesastres", this year. The society has monthly meetings on topics ranging from contingency planning for chemical disasters to training in mass casualty management. They hosted their sixth annual meeting in Morelia, Michoacán, in early October, where they held workshops, symposia, poster sessions, and a photography contest. To receive a copy of the newsletter (available in Spanish only) please write: Sociedad Mexicana de Medicina de Urgencias y Desastres, Aptdo. Postal 28292, Mexico City 06090, Mexico.

Andean health disaster coordinators meet

Disaster coordinators from the Ministries of Health of Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, met for the fifth time in Quito in early September to review the year's progress and make plans for health sector activities. The meeting was hosted by the PAHO/WHO Emergency Preparedness Program's subregional office in Quito under the auspices of the Convenio Hipólito Unanue. Major barriers to applying disaster reduction strategies, the health sector's role in national disaster plans, community preparedness, mitigation measures to reduce effects of disaster in hospitals and health centers, and effective response by the health sector in major disasters were the main points of discussion.

The group drafted a resolution to create an Advisory Commission that would work through the Ministries of Health to accelerate progress in disaster reduction. The resolution will be presented at the November meeting of the Ministers of Health of Andean countries. For more information, please contact Dr. Carlos Iván Rodríguez, Ministry of Health, Cra. 7, No. 32-74, Piso 17, Bogota, Colombia. Tel: (571) 282-0279; Fax: (571) 282-1718.