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close this bookHumanitarian Assistance in Disaster Situations:A Guide for Effective Aid (Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) / Organización Panamericana de la Salud (OPS), 1999, 20 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
Open this folder and view contentsInternational Health Relief Assistance: Benefit or Burden?
View the documentPrinciples of Humanitarian Assistance
View the documentObtaining International Disaster Relief
View the documentAfter a Disaster Occurs, Do...
View the documentDiscourage Sending...
View the documentConsult Further About Donations of...
View the documentMyths and Realities of Natural Disasters
View the documentEffects of Natural Disasters on Health
View the documentAnnex 1: SUMA
View the documentAnnex 2: Pan American Health Organization. Disaster Contacts
View the documentBack Cover

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. If food is requested, it must be non-perishable, clearly labeled, and appropriate to the local culture.

· 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 that 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 HIV antibodies.


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PAHO/WHO, J. Vizcarra

· Medical or paramedical personnel or teams. Local health services are able to handle emergency medical care to disaster victims. In fact, most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have a relatively high physician-to-population ratio. If international aid is needed, neighboring countries are in the best position to assist during the immediate aftermath of an event. 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 medium-term needs, it should not be accepted unless it is donated. Equipment specifications such as weight, volume, freight and installation costs should be transmitted to Ministry of Health authorities so that they can decide on its usefulness.


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Nazario García, Dominican Republic