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Disasters and Humanitarian Assistance

International Day for Disaster Reduction

The International Day for Disaster Reduction is observed each year on the second Wednesday in October. This year's celebration, on 14 October, is dedicated to the theme ‘Hospitals Safe from Disasters.'
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Browse through a list of 'must-read' documents.

Fire at St. Jude's Hospital in Saint Lucia

A fire broke out on the night of September 8, 2009 at the second largest public hospital in St. Lucia. Three patients died and the 44 remaining patients were evacuated to safe grounds. The surgical unit on the top floor was completely burned out. In addition, water damage was reported in the laboratory, pediatric unit and supplies room. PAHO has been in contact with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Permanent Secretary of St. Lucia. (More)

Be a Better Donor: Practical Recommendations for Humanitarian Aid

Saber Donar is the Spanish name for an interagency initiative on how to be a good humanitarian donor. A recently published guide on the subject promotes the exchange of knowledge and collaboration among all actors so that humanitarian aid will be offered and used wisely. The guide forms part of a package of material that will be used in public information campaigns throughout the Americas and may serve as a model for other regions of the world. (More)

Update on the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009

On July 29, PAHO's Medical Director made a presentation on the current status of the pandemic that has now claimed more than 800 lives worldwide. Although it was made for PAHO staff, the presentation includes information relevent to the general public, such as practical guidelines to avoid transmission of the disease and treatment options available for those infected. (More)

Breastfeeding is a Lifeline, Especially during Emergencies

Emergencies can happen at any time and any place. When emergencies occur and food and clean water are scarce, infants and young children are especially vulnerable. No matter what the emergency-conflict, earthquake, flood, or influenza pandemic-breast-feeding is a lifeline that saves lives. (More)

Risks of Dead Bodies Associated with an Epidemic

One of the issues raised by the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 has been the management of the bodies of people who have died as a result of epidemics. PAHO has prepared guidelines to help the public in general regarding measures to be taken, and the risks presented by dead bodies that have resulted from an epidemic. (More)

World Humanitarian Day

Established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2008, 19 August 2009 will be the first World Humanitarian Day. The designation of the Day is a way to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide. In addition, this year's Day aims to acknowledge the ongoing work of humanitarian staff around the globe, and to honor those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service. Promotional material, including a video, a summary of information on the safety and security of humanitarian relief workers, and a summary of global humanitarian assistance trends in 2009, are availabe at the World Humanitarian Day website.

Latest issue of "Disasters" newsletter is now online

This issue's editorial focuses on the risks a financial crisis can pose to disaster management, as funds previously used for disaster preparedness and relief are diverted to more pressing needs. The celebration of World Health Day is covered, and an interview with the head of the International Strategy for Disaster reduction is included. Among the new training materials available from PAHO is an interactive tool for hospital safety. (More)

"Hospitals Should Stand Up to Disasters"

Hospitals and other health facilities should be built to withstand the impact of natural disasters and should continue providing essential health services during and after emergencies, public health experts said on April 7 during a celebration of World Health Day 2009 at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (More)

'Safe Hospitals' is the Theme of World Health Day 2009

World Health Day is celebrated each April 7 to mark the founding of the World Health Organization. This year, World Health Day’s theme is When Disasters Strike: Safe Hospitals Save Lives. This year's theme focuses on three important messages: All health facilities must be able to withstand the physical impact of disasters; critical health services must continue to function in all emergency situations; and the health workforce must be trained and ready to deal with the particular challenges these situations impose. Browse through our web site to view World Health Day materials—posters, brochures, FAQs, videos and more.

New Toolbar to Get Information on Displaced Populations in Colombia

The Health and Displacement website--dedicated to the displaced populations in Colombia and neighboring countries--has created a toolbar to be used as an interaction mechanism for all actors interested in the subject. The toolbar offers links, alerts, videos, and an online library on health and displacement. The toolbar--for Internet Explorer and Firefox--can be downloaded here.

Canada Launched Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund

The Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management (CCDRM) Fund is an important component of the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA's) regional Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Program (CDRMP), which is managed by the Canadian High Commission in Barbados. The eight-year project, which has earmarked CAD $ 3 million to the CCDRM Fund, was launched on 3 November. It will provide support for small-scale, community-level projects designed to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards. Priority will be given to projects that produce disaster risk reduction benefits in low-income, rural communities or marginalized communities. For more information, contact the Fund Coordinator, Leslie John Walling, at

2008-2009 World Disaster Campaign on Safe Hospitals

The World Disaster Reduction Campaign 2008-2009: 'Hospitals Safe from Disasters' is underway. The campaign is focusing on the structural safety of hospitals and health facilities, on keeping health facilities functioning during and after disasters, and on making sure health workers are prepared for natural hazards striking. Visit the Campaign website.

Resource Material on Climate Change and Disasters

In line with this year's World Health Day theme "Protecting Health from Climate Change," the Regional Disaster Information Center (CRID) has published a CD-ROM with a large collection of documents from different agencies regarding climate change, disasters and health. Other topics include food safety and vector-borne and infectious diseases. The contents of the CD-ROM, which are in English and Spanish, can be downloaded from the CRID's website. (More)

Survey Results on Preparedness in PAHO/WHO Member States

In 2005, PAHO/WHO Member States requested a progress report on advances made to reduce the vulnerability of their population and health facilities and to strengthen preparedness and response mechanisms for major emergencies. The report of the study was presented to the 2006 meeting of PAHO´s Directing Council. Click here to read the full report.