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WHO urges countries to scale-up disaster risk management

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Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 6 September, 2012: Health Ministers from WHO’s South-East Asia Region renewed their commitment to improving disaster risk management in the health sector. Member countries are increasing investments and building capacities for all phases of disasters: risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery. The Health Ministers deliberated on this issue at WHO’s 65th Regional Committee Meeting from 5 to 7 September.

Investments in disaster risk management in Indonesia are an example of this renewed commitment. Many institutional and community systems were in place after the tsunami. The Center for Health Crises Management in the Ministry of Health Indonesia has recently been designated as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Disaster Risk Reduction. The centre has multiple functions of overseeing capacity development and decentralized operational response in the country. As a WHO Collaborating Centre it will serve as a knowledge base and a source of good practices in emergency risk management in the health sector, serving the needs of countries globally.

“For emergencies, information and research are needed to continuously provide evidence for development work in the health sector. Health interventions in disaster risk management need to be systematically documented and analysed” said Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia. “In-service training for health staff is urgently needed. Disaster risk management must be incorporated into the existing public health and medical curricula” he added.

Aside from information, services need to continue during emergencies. Health facilities should be designed to ensure resistance to the major hazards that prevail in their locations. Emergency health facility plans should be in place and all health staff need to be familiar with them. This capacity development should eventually be in and linked to the communities. Countries need to focus more on building and strengthening “community resilience” whereby people are able to help themselves during emergencies before outside help arrives. Community resilience will greatly reduce deaths, casualties and destruction in affected areas.

46% of all deaths due to disasters from 2001 to 2010 occurred in the 11 countries of WHO’s South-East Asia Region. Health Ministers from South-East Asian countries have demonstrated their commitment to disaster response by establishing and managing a response fund with WHO. The WHO South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund (SEARHEF) assists countries by providing funding within 24 hours of a funding request during an emergency.

SEARHEF funds have been utilized in 13 different emergencies throughout the Region since its inception in 2008.

The SEARHEF was first used to support health response to the devastating Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008. Subsequently, it was used for funding the creation of semi-permanent hospital wards in Northern Sri Lanka to care for victims of the escalated conflict in 2008-2009. Without these facilities countless more men, women and children would have suffered. The fund also supported smaller emergencies - providing antibiotics for burn victims of the 2010 fires in Dhaka which prevented post-burn infections, and assisting the response to flash floods in Sri Lanka. In major emergency during the 2011 flood in Thailand, boats and life jackets for mobile health units were provided through this fund. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the fund was utilized to equip and mobilize household doctors to mobilize them during torrential rains in 2011.

This is a unique cooperation between countries that provides a mechanism for solidarity in times of urgent need. Member States reaffirmed support for SEARHEF and quick emergency responses to disasters throughout the Region at the 65th Regional Committee Meeting.

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For more information, kindly visit us at: http://www.searo.who.int/LinkFiles/DRMHS_SEARHEF.pdf

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 Member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

For more information please contact:

Ms Vismita Gupta-Smith, Public Information and Advocacy Officer, WHO South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO), New Delhi, Tel: + 91-11-23309401,
mobile + 91-9871329861, e-mail: guptasmithv@searo.who.int
Ms Nursila Dewi, Communication Officer, WHO Country Office for Indonesia, Jakarta,
Tel: +62-21-5204349, mobile +62-81511102540, e-mail: dewin@searo.who.int

All press releases, fact sheets and other WHO media material may be found at: www.searo.who.int