|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 40 - October, 1989 (PAHO)|
Caribbean: OECS/French Project
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States is the site of a proposed project by the Government of France to strengthen predisaster planning and coordination of relief activities; improve preparedness for technological disasters; and support the training of human resources required for a health response to chemical radiation emergencies.
Chile: Foreign Affairs Delegates Meet on Disasters
Chile sponsored a multi-country seminar to discuss the role of diplomatic staff during disasters. The delegates from Ministries of Foreign Affairs considered both their role when their own country is struck by a disaster, and the role of their diplomatic missions and consulates abroad when the host country is affected. This is the first initiative at this level and it yielded interesting conclusions. For a copy write to Sr. Gastón Sarmiento, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Dirección de Planificación, Palacio de la Moneda, 3 piso, Santiago, Chile.
Southern Cone: Technical Health Group Meets
Technical health representatives from the Ministries of Health of the Southern Cone: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, met in Santiago to evaluate upcoming disaster preparedness activities, one of the region's priority areas. Among the important recommendations of the group: establish a rotating focal point to monitor and promote disaster preparedness activities of common interest to the countries; pay increasing attention to technological disasters; develop a workplan to be reported on at the next meeting of Ministers of Health of the Southern Cone. For a complete report on this meeting write Dr. Luis Jorge Perez, OPS, Asesor Subregional de Desastres, Casilla 2117, Lima 100, Peru.
Ecuador: Emergency Health Committee Restructured
The National Emergency Health Committe has been officially restructured and updated. For a copy of the complete text write to Ministerio de Salud Pública, Quito, Ecuador.
El Salvador: Hospital Drill
The Emergency Preparedness Unit of the Ministry of Health coordinated a multisector, mass casualty management drill for the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Santa Anal The El Salvadoran Red Cross, the fire department, volunteer organizations and others participated in the drill to evaluate the hospital's emergency plan, the response capacity of hospital personnel and those of other institutions. Contact Unidad de Preparativos pare Emergencias, Ministerio de Salud, Calle Arce 827, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Colombia: New Civil Defense Director
Major General (r) Fernando Gómez Barros is the new Director of the
Colombia Civil Defense. Major
General Gómez may be contacted at Defensa Civil Colombiana, Calle 55, No. 10-46, Bogotá, Colombia.
Mexico: Disaster Congress
The Mexican Society of Emergency and Disaster Medicine promotes scientific disaster preparedness activities. The Society held its first Congress from 2527 October. For further information write Dr. Carlos Rojas Enriquez, Sociedad Mexicana de Medicina de Urgencias y Desastres, Apartado Postal 28292, 06090 Mexico D.F., Mexico.
Paraguay: Disaster Commission Formed
By presidential decree, Paraguay created a National Disaster Prevention Commission which will serve as the country's National Committee for the International Disaster Decade. The commission will establish national strategies and priorities and improve the country's disaster response capacity.
Peru: Nuclear Energy Meeting
The Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy' the International Atomic Energy Commission, and PAHO will sponsor a course on Evaluation of Doses and Medical Assistance to Persons Exposed to ionized Radiation in Lima from 16 October to 3 November. For a report on this meeting write to Ing. Eduardo Medina Gironzini, Dirección de Seguridad Nuclear y Protección Radiolgóica, Instituto Peruano de Energía Nuclear, Av. Canada 1470, Lima 41, Perú.
CISMID, JICA, PAHO course on Seismic Engineering
The Center for Seismic Engineering and Mitigation of Disasters
(CISMID), together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and
PAHO sponsored the first in a series of Spanish-language courses for high-level
professionals from more than 15 countries. Análisis de Riesgo en el Diseño de
Hospitales en Zonas Sísmicas was held in Lima from 20 August to 9 September.
The course brought together structural engineers and architects with experience
in or responsibility for health sector institutions and hospital administrators
from earthquake-prone countries in the region. Presentations on the latest
information and techniques in specialized areas of seismic engineering, design
and management of health facilities were given by experts in these fields.
Excellent exchanges of ideas occurred due to the caliber of the participants in
this course, each of whom gave a presentation on his or her area of specialty.
For more information on the outcome of this course or for information on future
training courses, contact Centro de Ingeniería Sísmica y Mitigación de Desastres
(CISMID), Facultad de Ingeniería Civil, UNI, Apartado 1301, Lima,
For the second year in a row, a major hurricane dealt a devastating blow to the Caribbean, almost exactly one year after Hurricane Gilbert. Many health sector facilities are still feeling the effects of that powerful storm.
In the late hours of 16 September, Hugo struck the Eastern Caribbean with winds of more than 140 m.p.h. In its wake, common health problems and priorities emerged: rapid repairs to and rehabilitation of hospitals and clinics (temporary or permanent roofing, mattresses, small equipment) and monitoring of water quality.
Thanks to preparedness measures - discharging patients or evacuating them to safer areas - the hurricane did not claim any lives nor cause severe injuries in hospitals, despite the physical damage.
PAHO's Caribbean Program Coordinator's Office in Barbados organized the post-disaster health assessment. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and CARICOM assumed an increasingly important coordination role, working primarily with Jamaican and Barbadian teams and contingents from Trinidad and Guyana. In an excellent display of Caribbean self-reliance, the most useful and rapid assistance was provided by neighboring countries, even if they were affected.
Communications is always one of the most serious post-hurricane problems (see page 2.) The U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the Red Cross and PAHO sent telecommunications teams with the portable satellite equipment. Although this provided the only land-based means of international communication for national authorities (apart from ham radio operators), it was not enough to cover a multi-island disaster.
Antigua and Barbuda, with a population of approximately 80,000, was spared the storm's full strength. Although the hurricane severely damaged the General Hospital, the standby generator was soon operating. Barbuda's hospital suffered greater damages to walls and the roof. Telephone service was restored sooner than on other islands, but electric power was out for 1015 days. The office of the Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Project (PCDPPP), based in Antigua, was used as an inter-island communication center.
Guadeloupe, a French department of 300,000 persons, sustained very heavy damages, primarily to the agricultural and housing sectors. Water pumping and purification stations could not function because of the lack of electricity. Many roads w e r e impassable. There were health needs as France and French departments provided substantial assistance to cover the immediate requirements.
Montserrat, the smallest island with a population of 12,000, suffered the most devastation. With 20% of the homes completely destroyed and another 50% very severely damaged, shelter became the most pressing need. Twenty-seven shelters were established, the largest of which housed some 300 persons. Latrines were quickly constructed as 80% of the shelters had no sanitation; 90% were without running water. The government identified shelter management and organization as a priority area for future training.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, population 45,000, the main hospital was damaged and flooding caused its partial evacuation. The operating theater of the hospital in Nevis lost its roof making surgery impossible. The damage to the electric power system affected the water supply and distribution. Canada provided emergency financial assistance and generators to restore the water supply, while Trinidad and Tobago provided the water quality technicians to monitor this project.
Hurricane Hugo continued its path of destruction through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico before slamming into the southeast coast of the US.