PAHO Launches International Appeal Following Earthquake in Colombia
Washington DC, January 27, 1999 - The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today launched an appeal for financial and humanitarian assistance from the international community in response to the earthquake that shook central and eastern Colombia on Monday, causing widespread damage and estimates of more than 1,000 deaths and a similar number of persons missing.
In the disasters aftermath, PAHO has assembled, and has ready for deployment, a team of epidemiologists to evaluate the potential for disease epidemics; engineers to assess damage to health, water, and sewage facilities; and specialists in health care services. In addition, PAHO, through its Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief program (PED), is readying a team of experts who will oversee a PAHO-developed relief supply management tool-known by its acronym, SUMA-that allows relief workers to quickly sort out life-saving materials from nonessential goods and track them from point of entry to their final destination. SUMA was most recently used successfully in Central America following Hurricane Mitch.
The goods and services most urgently needed by the Colombian Government and being provided by PAHO include the mobilization of the SUMA team to classify, sort, and inventory incoming relief; technical cooperation to conduct a rapid assessment of the health situation; and support for the in-country purchase of essential medicines and health equipment and supplies. PAHO officials will also make recommendations for health strategies in the emergency period; assist in rapid interim repairs to hospitals, clinics, and laboratories; aid the Ministry of Health in coordinating relief activities with other institutions and nongovermental organizations; and prepare a plan for health sector rehabilitation.
According to Dr. Claude de Ville, chief of PED, the PAHO appeal elicited an almost immediate response. The United Kingdom announced that it would make US$ 100,000 available to the Colombian relief efforts. De Ville also noted that the Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua-the two countries hardest hit by Hurricane Mitch last October-were quick to pledge aid.
PAHO Director Dr. George A.O. Alleyne has also sent a letter to World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Gro Brundtland and Colombian Minister of Health Dr. Virgilio Galvis Ramírez expressing PAHO's deep concern for the disaster in Colombia and reassurances that the Organization will do everything possible to provide the necessary assistance.
PAHO, founded in 1902, provides technical cooperation in a broad range of areas related to health and human development, including emergency preparedness and disaster relief. It works to improve the health and living conditions in the countries in the Americas, and serves as Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.
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