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WHO and Philippines to launch safe hospitals campaign

MANILA, 19 August 2008 - The World Health Organization and the Department of Health of the Philippines are launching the 2008-2009 World Disaster Reduction Campaign on Making Hospitals Safe from Disasters on 20 August at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Manila. Keynote speakers will be Secretary Francisco Duque of the Department of Health and Dr Soe Nyunt-u, WHO Representative in the Philippines.

The campaign, with the theme "Hospitals Safe from Disasters: Reduce Risk, Protect Health Facilities, Save Lives", aims to raise awareness about why and how to redouble efforts to protect health facilities and staff and how hospitals can ensure their function during and in the aftermath of disasters.

The event will also feature video presentations from DOH and WHO that depict actual incidences of damaged health facilities and their effect on health operations and the community. Participants to the launch are senior officials of the DOH, representatives of different health-related and infrastructure sectors in the government and private institutions, and members of the international health community. DOH will also conduct the Orientation on Hospitals Safe from Disasters on 19 August 2008 to present tohospital officials the newly developed manual for safe health facilities.

WHO noted that the world has recently witnessed accounts of destroyed health facilities:

- In 2008, Typhoon Fengshen destroyed or damaged 89 hospitals and health facilities in central and southern Philippines, further aggravating the suffering of disaster victims and their families due to lack of medical services.

- In 2005, the South Asian earthquake destroyed almost 50% of health facilities in the worst affected region of Pakistan.

- In December 2004, the earthquake and tsunami damaged or totally destroyed more than 360 hospitals and health facilities were in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and India.

- In 2001, the Gujarat earthquake in India destroyed 3812 health facilities, requiring US$60 million for reconstruction.

"Over the past 10 years, the Western Pacific Region encountered 127 major disasters from natural hazards or 23% of all disasters worldwide," said Dr Soe Nyunt-U. "Another UN study showed that the Philippines is the most disaster-prone country in the Region, exceeding China and Viet Nam. This is the reason why we need hospitals and health facilities that will not collapse in disasters, killing patients and staff."

The damages that disasters can incur to health facilities reach millions of dollars and may range from 15% to 60% of annual government health spending. Studies have shown that retrofitting-bracing, reinforcement or other engineering interventions-of health facilities are cost-effective and can protect up to 90% of the value of the hospital. For some hospitals, however, retrofitting may have cost implications which would require the commitment from policymakers.

"Preparedness and response can be reinforced so that human suffering is prevented or minimized," said Dr Arturo Pesigan, head of the WHO Emergency and Humanitarian Action. "This can only be achieved by structures that will not collapse in disasters, with an organized contingency plan, and with a trained health workforce to continue and provide its services during critical situations."

For more information Hospitals on Safe from Disasters visit www.safehospitals.info.

For more information on the WHO activities:
Dr. Arturo Pesigan
Emergency and Humanitarian Action
Tel: (632) 528 9810
E-mail: pesigana@wpro.who.int

For more information on Safe Hospitals Campaign in the Philippines:
Health Emergency Management Staff
Department of Health
Tel.: (632) 743 3801 loc. 2204
Telefax.: (632) 443 1829

National Center for Health Facility Development
Department of Health
Tel.: (632) 743 3801 loc. 1454
Telefax.: (632) 443 1829