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close this bookEmergency Health Management after Natural Disaster (PAHO)
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View the documentPreface
View the documentAcknowledgment and references
Open this folder and view contentsPart I: The effects of disaster on health and an approach to relief
Open this folder and view contentsPart II: Emergency relief procedures
Open this folder and view contentsPart III: Annexes


This Guide is intended for use by decision makers and senior administrators in disaster-prone developing countries who are responsible for providing health services after sudden natural disasters.

It presents a general overview of the problems that will be encountered when a disaster overcomes a nation's resources and suggests general criteria that should be applied in choosing relief measures. It is not within the Guide's scope to elaborate on the technical aspects of the measures chosen for implementation. The Pan American Health Organization will later publish detailed technical guidelines on specialized topics such as the management of medical supplies, vector-control measures, health management in refugee camps, and communicable disease surveillance as a series of manuals.

For the purposes of this Guide, natural disasters comprise earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tidal waves, and destructive winds (cyclones, hurricanes, and tornadoes). Man-made catastrophes, famine, drought, and other slow-onset disasters, and epidemics are not included. The Guide's object is not to give detailed technical information but to present a framework within which an administrator can make rational and effective decisions about relief measures. It deals only with the period immediately after disaster—the first three or four weeks—and not with long-term problems of reconstruction and rehabilitation. Nor is it intended to anticipate every circumstance; to meet local conditions, some adaptation of the approaches suggested will be necessary. It is hoped the Guide will serve as a framework for developing national manuals covering local circumstances. It should be emphasized that the health sector must work within the framework and priorities that higher levels of authority establish during this period, and that greater priority may be given to other sectors.

The Guide is divided into two sections. The first presents a summary of experience with common public health problems after natural disasters. The second and longer part deals with specific health topics and relief procedures.