Gearing up to reduce risks from emergencies and disasters

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Cancun (Mexico), 25 May 2017: From Moldova, Kyrgyzstan to Mexico and Iran, several countries have embraced WHO’s Hospital Safety Index to make hospitals safer during disasters. The Index is one of several ways that WHO works with governments to protect people's health during emergencies and disasters.

At the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun in Mexico this week, 50 health sector delegates came together to strengthen collaboration in this area. Dr Gerry Eijkemans, WHO’s representative for Pan America, highlighted WHO’s efforts to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The Framework contains 38 references to health.

Lessons from disasters, such as the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Nepal earthquake make one thing clear: local and national capacities are critical. WHO therefore helps to build capacities to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies and disasters.

In addition, WHO strengthens country-level presence, particularly in high risk countries by:

  • Providing support for independent evaluations under the International Health Regulations (IHR)
  • Strengthening the readiness of countries to manage operations
  • Implementing the Safe Hospitals Initiative linked to the safety
  • Providing technical assistance to Sendai Framework targets and indicators
  • Including emergencies in Rehabilitation 2030: A Call for Action
  • Launching a new initiative linking mental health and disaster risk management.

WHO’s Statement to the Global Platform recognized the strong leadership of Mexico in the field of disaster risk reduction, in particular through the Safe Hospitals Initiative. Mexico City's devastating 1985 earthquake prompted the Ministers of Health of the Americas to establish strategies on Disaster Risk Reduction in Health. Mexico has even applied the Safe Hospitals principles to the protection of other infrastructure, including schools, transport and hotels.