Humanitarian Health Action

Purpose statements for panels and sessions

WHO Conference on the Health Aspects of the Tsunami Disaster in Asia

Panel 2.5: Mass casualty management and hospital care


In addition to claiming the lives of almost 300,000 persons, the tsunami of 26 December 2004 also left many thousands injured and/or in need of hospital care. Often, it is the affected community that provides immediate lifesaving care to the injured. Many of these are then transported to hospitals or health facilities, whose services can quickly become overwhelmed. Managing a large number of injuries poses logistical as well as medical challenges, especially when hospitals in the area have suffered damage.

Ensuring that the health sector can deal with large number of disaster casualties requires preparedness. Examples of preparedness initiatives can include training in triage and first aid, either at the site of the emergency or at the hospital. Many lives have been lost in mass casualty situations because resources were not trained properly or mobilized efficiently.

Key reflections for this panel

  • A mass casualty management "system" can contribute, in a positive fashion, to saving lives. What types of systems were in place help to deal with the sequelae of the tsunami and how effective were they?
  • What lessons can be drawn from the way in which tsunami-affected countries prepared for and/or managed mass casualties?

Other key agencies in the health sector are involved in mass casualty management. How can we capitalize on the respective strengths of other agencies and partner with them to design mass casualty management systems that ensure the highest possible survival rate?