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close this bookDisasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 06 - January, 1981 (PAHO)
View the documentFood and nutrition in the wake of disaster
View the documentNews from PAHO and WHO
View the documentNotes from other agencies
View the documentMember countries
View the documentMyths and reality: Communicable disease following natural disasters
View the documentCountry disaster preparedness programs
View the documentReview of publications
View the documentSelected bibliography

News from PAHO and WHO

European Economic Community Grant

The European Economic Community, through the Commission of the European Communities, agreed to provide financial support for the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Relief program of the Pan American Health Organization. The grant, for the amount of US $1,584,000, is to be disbursed over a period of five years. It was made for the purpose of "improving the capability of the countries of the Latin American region to respond to and minimize the effects of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and cyclones, and to contribute to the process of development and self-support of disaster-prone countries" in Central and South America through predisaster planning and training in the health sector.

In the immediate future, the grant will be used to "establish or improve mechanisms of coordination, to provide a focal point in the health sector at the national and subregional level for handling disasters, and to prepare health service personnel to act efficiently and rationally in the aftermath of a natural disaster in their own or in neighboring countries requesting assistance."

A Group Tour

A group of health professionals composed of two nationals from Barbados and two from Jamaica toured Canada, the U.S. and the Bahamas, from November 3 to December 5. The study tour was funded by PAHO and organized by its Division of Comprehensive Health Services and the Disaster Preparedness Office. It had the objective of acquainting the health professionals with the organization of emergency services, hospital disaster planning, and the management of mass casualties in intermediate-size community hospitals.

Health Aspects and Relief Management Course

Senior health officials involved in planning and emergency provision of health services following catastrophes in disaster-prone countries met in Brussels from October 12 to 24, to take part in the "WHO Course on Health Aspects and Relief Management-Natural Disasters." The intensive course was organized by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, School of Public Health, University of Louvain. It aimed to promote a systematic approach to the management of disasters and to identify deficiencies in the field. The participants underlined the importance of establishing national command centers for disaster relief coordination in the health sector.

Introductory remarks were made by the Center's Director, Prof. Michel Lechat, and Dr. S. Gunn, head of the Emergency Relief Office of the World Health Organization. Subsequent speakers discussed standardized medical and surgical treatment, hospital disaster plans, communicable disease and surveillance, famine relief and nutritional problems, refugee camps, environmental health protection and management and health planning.

From the American region, Dr. C. Moody of Jamaica discussed the levels of decision making that are involved in the development and execution of national health plans for disaster and presented a series of slides on appropriate national policies toward international relief efforts. Dr. R. Mac Donald, from Guatemala, chaired the discussions on medical and nursing care. Prof. F. Nunes, from the University of the West Indies, presented the methods that are employed in creating simulation exercises and adapting them to national contingencies. Nunes was the author of the simulation exercise, "Cariba," first introduced earlier this year to a disaster relief seminar held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Dr. G. Malagón of Colombia and Dr. J.L. Zeballos of Bolivia participated in the discussions, contributing observations from their experiences in the field. The closing session dealt with the role that specific organizations play in international relief assistance.

For a summary of the proceedings and documents, write: Prof. M.F. Lechat, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, School of Public Health, EPID-UCL 30-34, Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs, 30, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium.

Resolution to Strengthen Disaster Preparedness

In its XXVII annual meeting, the Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization approved a resolution aimed at strengthening its disaster preparedness program. It approved the program's five-year strategy, including the proposal that a multidisciplinary team, composed of PAHO staff members or consultants and supervised by the PAHO Country Representative, be made available to interested countries to provide technical cooperation in the event of an emergency. Provided that the disaster-prone country had agreed in advance to such an arrangement, as soon as a catastrophe occurred, the team would be deployed without further request, to assist in the rapid assessment of needs, the preparation of damage estimates and other tasks. in the resolution, the Directing Council also noted the need to gradually increase technical cooperation in the Region toward the management of non-natural disasters of public health importance, such as explosions, fires and chemical accidents.

The Canadian delegation requested that the program be included on the agenda because of its firm belief that "planning and preparedness will save many lives in the Region." The Jamaican delegation noted that a national office for emergency preparedness and disaster relief had been established within the Jamaican Ministry of Local Government, and stressed the need for a greater information exchange between the countries. Barbados emphasized the importance of flexibility in preparedness plans to deal with different types of disasters. The Venezuelan delegation suggested that coordination of emergency preparedness activities in the Americas might best be achieved through the establishment of subregional coordination centers. Both Venezuela and Chile offered other member countries and PAHO the cooperation of their respective national emergency offices.

The delegation of Saint Lucia, a country which was among the most severly damaged by hurricane Alien last August, stated that its government had authorized the entry of a PAHO team in the event of a major emergency to facilitate the team's speedy collaboration with the Ministry of Health.