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International Day of Disaster Reduction

Tuesday, October 13 – The Department of Disaster Management is inviting the Territory to join in the observance of International Day of Disaster Reduction (IDDR) on Wednesday, 14th October under the theme, “Hospitals Safe from Disasters”.  

Every 2nd Wednesday in October, countries around the world join the United Nations in launching campaigns to raise awareness, mobilize action and implement practices to reduce loss of life, as well as social and environmental damage as a result of disasters.  

The main objectives of the campaign are to protect the lives of patients and health workers by ensuring the structural resilience of health facilities, to ensure health facilities and health services are able to function in the aftermath of emergencies and disasters, when they are most needed, and to improve the risk reduction capacity of health workers and institutions including emergency management.

The International Day for Disaster Reduction is the peak day on the United Nations’ calendar dedicated to reducing the impact of disasters on our communities through stronger prevention and preparedness actions.

In the recent disasters in the Philippines, Vietnam and China, Samoa and Indonesia and West Africa not only lives were lost but lifesaving health infrastructure was severely affected. Therefore, the United Nations urge the global community to build new hospitals that will withstand the impacts of natural hazards.

The global launch, organised by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), also marks the culmination of the 2008-09 World Disaster Reduction Campaign.  Along with the UNISDR, the World Health Organization and the World Bank have been key players in the promotion of this global campaign, which has been aimed at strengthening the preparedness and resilience of health facilities to cope with all hazards, including those associated with the risks of climate change.

Monica Zaccarelli Davoli of PAHO stated that while many health facilities in the Caribbean have become inoperative after major earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods; St. Lucia’s St. Jude Hospital showed that other events such as fires, explosions, chemical emergencies, and even social unrest also threaten the physical facilities and the delivery of services.

Regardless of the hazard however, the health consequences of a hospital’s post-disaster failure can be dire. A structural collapse, for example, directly threatens the lives of the patients and health workers and inhibits provision of emergency care to victims.


Countries have also suffered devastating economic losses when health facilities have been destroyed or damaged. Hurricane Ivan in 2004 damaged 91% of hospitals and 36% of health centres in Jamaica, at an estimated cost of JA$718.2 million, while Hurricane Emily in 2005 caused EC$1.6 billion worth of damages to the major hospital, medical stations and homes for the elderly in Grenada.

More than half of the 16,000 hospitals in the region are in high-risk areas, and many have been lost or incapacitated by earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. During El Salvador's 2001 earthquake, nearly 2,000 hospital beds (39 percent of the country's total capacity) were put out of service. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 damaged or destroyed 78 hospitals and health centers in Honduras and 180 in Nicaragua, while Hurricane Georges damaged or destroyed 87 health facilities in the Dominican Republic the same year. More recently, Grenada lost its entire health capacity in one blow with Hurricane Ivan.

Yet improvements in building design and construction have proven effective in reducing the vulnerability of hospitals and other facilities to disasters. In recent decades, developed countries such as the United States and Japan have adopted building codes that require hospitals and other public facilities to be disaster resistant.

We know that with current knowledge, existing resources, and a strong political commitment, it is possible to reduce the impact of disasters, emergencies and health crises on hospitals and health facilities.  As a Caribbean expert says “the most expensive hospital is the one that fails”.

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