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PAHO/WHO Mobilizing to Meet Haiti's Health Needs after Earthquake
Date:1/14/2010

uffered through four major hurricanes or storms during 2008, is especially vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters. However, he said lessons learned from disasters throughout the Americas and the world should be used to improve the relief and recovery response.

Among the lessons he cited were:

  • The bodies of victims of earthquakes are not a significant health threat to survivors. Mass burials are ill-advised, and all efforts should be made to identify victims and provide them with proper burials. This respects the human rights and mental health needs of surviving family members.
  • Disaster assistance from donor countries and organizations is best provided on the basis of on-the-ground needs assessments, and in coordination with national authorities.
  • Field hospitals set up by donor countries and organizations must be self-sufficient and should not require support from the local community.
  • Hospitals can and should be built to withstand the impact of disasters and should be planned and equipped to remain functioning after disasters.

"The additional cost of building hospitals to be disaster-safe is marginal," said Dr. Andrus, "and so is the cost of retrofitting existing facilities. Most important, these costs are negligible in comparison with the cost of a failed hospital. Donor countries and organizations should keep this mind for Haiti's longer term recovery."

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information please contact: Donna Eberwine-Villagran,

SOURCE Pan American Health Organization
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