|Natural Disasters - Protecting the Public's Health (PAHO-OPS, 2000, 133 p.)|
Two decades have passed since the Pan American Health Organization published the first edition of these guidelines. In the intervening years, disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness has evolved in important ways. Clearly, it was time for us to revisit this publication.
Twenty years ago, disaster management was simply left to a few dedicated professionals. Roles were clear: rescue workers rushed to help victims and certain agencies stepped in to provide temporary shelter and food. And society at large, a while after the impact, erased the disaster from its memory - until the next one came to wreak new destruction.
Unfortunately, disasters in the Americas and throughout the world have provided ample opportunities to test the policies and recommendations set out nearly twenty years ago. Over time, the approach has changed.
Today, the management of humanitarian assistance involves many more and different players, and disasters are recognized as public health priorities in which the health system plays a significant role. Today, prevention, mitigation, and preparedness are part of the vocabulary of disaster administrators in national and international organizations and, more importantly, they are used to advance the cause of disaster reduction. Today, societys involvement in disasters both precedes the impact and remains alive long after. Finally, the interrelationship between human development and disasters is better understood today - how disasters can permanently damage a countrys economy, but, at the same time, how the path toward development may put a country at greater risk to the destructive consequences of natural disasters.
We are pleased to offer these updated guidelines. They include all the principles and recommendations that have withstood the test of time and new concepts and understanding gleaned along the way. May they strengthen disaster prevention, mitigation, and preparedness in our countries. May they save lives.