Binational cooperation in border regions
Populations living in the border regions of neighboring countries
share not only strong ethnic, historic, and commercial ties, they also
frequently share the threat of common natural hazards. phenomena that do not
distinguish political boundaries. The degree of vulnerability to these hazards
in one country may vary from that in a neighboring country because of differing
social and economic conditions. Understanding these differences. which can also
imply distinct technical capabilities. can open up rich possibilities for
cooperation and exchange between countries.
Search and rescue teams developed
locally are important to a nation's preparedness, and play a vital role in
cooperation between countries of the Region in times of disaster.
Photo: Catani Jr.
Factors such as centralization and geographical distances in the
poorest nations contribute to slower development in the frontier regions and
have a strong influence on the escalation and prolongation of the phase of
isolation following the impact of a natural disaster. Scant measures of
prevention and mitigation, insufficient preparation for response. and delay in
receiving assistance from one's own country or from others - an element
always widely publicized in the media - heighten the sensation among the
affected population that they are being overlooked and that their needs are
In contrast to all of this we should emphasize the spirit of
cooperation and community solidarity that can be found in small border
populations. This is an element that can enrich constructive dialogue between
the leaders of the respective countries and among the community members
themselves, who, together, can generate imaginative answers to problems that are
shared and that may have already been dealt with by one of the neighboring
countries. There is an example of such an exchange going on now in the Region.
In January 1993 the Ministers of Health of Chile and Peru met in
Arica and Tacna, border cities of those two countries. An agreement on
binational cooperation in health was signed one year earlier, and the
discussions centered on advances that had been made in the interim. Disaster
preparedness was one of the priorities of that agreement.
Activities have been jointly developed to confront cases of
massive emergencies and disasters, including the implementation of an integrated
radiocommunication system, the formation of a Border Committee on Coordination
in the case of disaster, training of human resources, the implementation of
joint operative plans for health services, and coordination between the
operational systems of health in both cities.
The advancements made thus far in this initiative led to the
approval of a Plan of Action for 1993, and of a Disaster Preparedness Project
for the area surrounding the two cities for 1993-1995, a project that commits
both countries to an investment of US$170,000. The initiative and development of
this binational project has grown in the framework of technical cooperation
provided through the PAHO/WHO Representations in Peru and Chile.
The destruction resulting from natural disasters in the region and
the valor shown by the victims, shows that cooperation between neighboring
countries can provide relief from the misfortune that inevitably accompanies
This article was prepared by Dr. Nelson Raul Morales, Emergency
Preparedness Program, PAHO/WHO, Lima,