|Disasters Preparedness and Mitigation - Issue No. 06 - January, 1981 (PAHO)|
Disaster experts from the Andean Region, brought together by PAHO and the Convenio Hipólito Unanue, met to develop an operational blueprint for a national program on emergency preparedness in the health sector and mutual cooperation and assistance should a disaster occur in any of the subregion's member countries. The meeting was held in Colombia during the last week of November, and was attended by experts from the ministries of health and civil defense. Following one day of presentations on the status of the respective national programs for emergency preparedness, the participants reviewed the following issues in working groups: organization of national coordination, priorities in the training and education of human resources, research, legislation and financing of disaster preparedness programs. The high level experts then recommended the creation of a technical/administrative office for disaster preparedness and relief coordination of the Andean countries. The recommendations specified the need for allocating a specific budget allotment of the ministries of health for the ongoing activities of the office and its permanent technical staff.
Findings from the first known experimental field trial of oral rehydration therapy in emergency situations showed that its administration by trained nurse auxiliaries and mothers can mitigate the effects of dehydration caused by diarrhea. Local authorities were faced by problems of overcrowding and poor sanitation in the refugee camps constructed in Honduras to temporarily shelter thousands of people fleeing across the border from Nicaragua. Over fifty percent of health center consultations in the camps were related to acute diarrheal disease, mostly in children. A corollary effect of the utilization of ORS was to decrease health center workloads in temporary settlements to a manageable size. The results of the field trial have been compiled and will soon be published in the PAHO Bulletin.
The Ministry of Health of the Government of Panama has organized a course on medical organization for emergency situations, to be held from January 20 to 23, 1981, in Panama. The course will cover the typology and evolution of disasters, surveillance and control of disease, environmental sanitation, management of supplies and food distribution, mental health in disaster situations, intersectoral coordination, health sector planning and coordination, international coordination and hospital emergency plans. The course format will consist of primary presentations followed by small group and plenary discussions. The presentations will be supplemented by films and a simulation exercise. For further information, write: Ministry of Health, Apto. 2048, Panama 1, Panama, 1, Dr. T. Engler.
The Mexican Public Health Society held its XXXIV Annual Meeting from 10 to 13 November in Mexico City. A Latin American program for health care in disaster situations was among the topics that were discussed under the general theme of Health for All in the Year 2000. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Ramón Alvarez Gutiérrez. For further information, write: Sociedad Mexicana de Salud Pública, Leibnitz No. 32, México 5, D.F.
The Ministry of Health of Jamaica had just drafted the first version of its health disaster plan when hurricane
Alien struck the island in August. The management of emergency situations was considerably improved by the existence of the plan. The experience gathered in the disaster permitted the authorities to identify a need for improvements in sections of the plan as well as the need to expand planning activities to the parish level. A national meeting of the health sector is tentatively planned for early 1981 to complete the planning process initiated in 1980.
The Cuban Ministry of Health is planning a national course on health care administration after natural disaster to train health administrators and civil defense administrators at the provincial level. The course is tentatively scheduled for June, 1981. In addition to local heads of health and civil defense services, participants will include representatives of international agencies who have experience with natural disaster emergencies. For further information, write: Ministerio de Salud, 23 y N. Vedado, Habana, Cuba, attention: Dr. Eddy Gomez.
The Caribbean Disaster Preparedness Planning Group met informally on 4 December 1980, to discuss the final steps needed to set up a multidisciplinary team of experts. Under the leadership of an UNDRO project leader, the experts will be selected from the following disciplines: general preparedness, health preparedness, Red Cross relief, and first aid. In the health sector, objectives are to promote disaster planning, train health officials, educate the general public and prepare vulnerability analyses of health and related services. Initial funding has been pledged by the Eastern Caribbean Common Market (through an EEC grant), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, PAHO, and the League of Red Cross Societies. The team will serve all countries/territories of the Caribbean. Subject to confirmation of funding pledges, the team - to be stationed in Antigua - is expected to be operational by March 1981.