Chilean President Michelle Bachelet thanks PAHO/WHO for support during emergency

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Santiago, Chile, 21 April 2015 (PAHO/WHO) – President Michelle Bachelet of Chile thanked the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) during an emergency caused by heavy rains and flooding in late March.

Dra. Etienne con la president Bachelet de ChileChilean President Michelle Bachelet thanked PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne for her organization's support following the recent emergency in northern Chile.

"Thank you for all your support," Bachelet told PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne on April 20 during a meeting in the La Moneda presidential palace. Also present were Minister of Health Carmen Castillo Taucher and PAHO/WHO Representative in Chile Paloma Cuchi.

The disaster affected some 29,000 people in the Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions of northern Chile. PAHO/WHO responded with support for Chile's Ministry of Health and activated its Regional Disaster Response Team on March 27. Since then, PAHO/WHO has mobilized international experts in emergency coordination and health services to support damage and needs assessments and efforts to restore health services, along with experts in water and sanitation, environmental health and toxicology. The Organization also donated 200 water tanks and 200 hygiene kits to ensure access to safe water and hygiene conditions to affected communities.

Also during the meeting, Etienne told Bachelet that Chile is in many ways a model country with respect to health development. She said that sharing Chile's experiences through triangular cooperation facilitated by PAHO/WHO could help build capacity in other countries. Bachelet expressed interest in pursuing such initiatives.

Etienne also offered the support of PAHO/WHO's Expert Group on Disaster Mitigation, made up of engineers, architects and emergency specialists who have experience in design and reconstruction of health facilities.

Plan for healthy and resilient communities

PAHO/WHO and Chile's Ministry of Health are currently collaborating in the development of a medium-term recovery plan for Chile's northern region, with the goal of creating healthy and resilient communities that are better prepared for emergencies.

Another topic of discussion between Bachelet and Etienne was universal access to health and universal health coverage. Bachelet said Chile faced the challenges of expanding access to health care in rural communities using innovations such as telemedicine and mobile units, and increasing the availability of health personnel at the local level.

Collaboration with the University of Valparaiso

-Also during the visit—her second official visit to Chile since becoming PAHO/WHO Director—Etienne signed a collaborative agreement with the University of Valparaiso to improve the health of older adults and to train students and professionals in the university's School of Medicine.

On Wednesday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m., Etienne will address the International Symposium on Cancer Policies in South America, in the Las Condes Regal Pacific Hotel. On Friday, April 24. At 9 a.m., Etienne will open the International Seminar on Health Access and Universal Coverage in Chile at the Crowne Plaza hotel, where she will participate in a round table to launch a Spanish edition of the recent Lancet series on universal health coverage in Latin America.