The floods that have been affecting three northern regions (Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo), since 25 March, have left more than 30,000 people homeless and severe damage to critical infrastructure in the area, particularly in the drinking water and sewerage and electricity networks, and access roads to the affected areas.
The Chilean Ministry of Health activated its local, regional and national response mechanisms, to protect and restore the health of the affected population.
The Pan American Health Organization immediately joined the health authorities in their efforts, through its Office in Chile, and on 27 March the PAHO Regional Disaster Response Team was activated. That same day international experts in coordination and emergency management and health services were deployed, from Peru and Washington, to support in damage and needs assessments and health services recovery in Antofagasta and Coquimbo, and information management and decision making in the Ministry of Health. In addition, experts in water and sanitation, environmental health and toxicology were then deployed from Washington and Mexico to support health sector activities in the affected areas.
Chile's emergency system is responding with actions in all sectors and at local, regional and national levels. The health sector has implemented urgent measures to fully recover the full operation of the health services network and to ensure the best conditions of water and sanitation services and food safety for victims and those in shelters.
Hospitals and other health facilities that were flooded continue providing services and serving the growing needs of patients, especially due to respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.
PAHO's Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, sent a formal note of sympathy to the Government of Chile and confirmed that cooperation with the country is a priority right now. For that reason financial and technical resources from the Department of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief were mobilized, to strengthen the capacity of the PAHO/WHO office in the country.
PAHO/WHO will continue to provide cooperation to national authorities and will continue to coordinate actions with other UN agencies, to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected population, limit human suffering, fully recover health services, prevent disease outbreaks, evaluate the potential health impact of chemical pollution, and address other situations that may arise due to the emergency.