Save lives: make hospitals safe in emergencies
7 April 2009 -- WHO has launched a campaign to make hospitals and other health facilities safe in emergencies. In this episode, we examine what the issue is.
Transcript of the podcast
Akunda Pallangyo: You’re listening to the WHO podcast, and my name is Akunda Pallangyo. On World Health Day today, WHO has launched a campaign to make hospitals and other health facilities safe in emergencies. In this episode, we examine what the issue is.
Dr Bushra Shams: We don't have a set-up, no record, laboratory, no drugs. So we need to work from the very beginning, from the very scratch, first thing.
Akunda Pallangyo: That is Dr Bushra Shams, a TB control officer from Pakistan, talking about the damage that the earthquake caused to health facilities in 2005. Natural disasters, conflicts, outbreaks and other emergencies inflict deadly damage not just on communities but hospitals, clinics and their staff that are meant to provide health care to the public. WHO has launched a campaign - starting on World Health Day on the 7th of April - to make health facilities safe for emergencies. WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan highlighted the issue at the global launch of World Health Day in the Chinese capital of Beijing.
Dr Margaret Chan: A safe hospital is one that is able to withstand emergencies, withstand floods, earthquakes and strong wind and continue to provide appropriate life-saving functions, to protect people, to save life and limbs, to reduce the suffering of people, from disasters.
Akunda Pallangyo: Emergencies in 2008 affected 211 million people worldwide and killed almost a quarter of a million. Health facilities also suffered. In China, 11 000 health facilities were damaged or destroyed in the 2008 earthquake. More than half of the 16 000 hospitals in Latin America and the Caribbean are in areas at high risk for disasters.
Dr Margaret Chan: To commemorate World Health Day this year, WHO is advocating a series of best practices that can be implemented, in any resource setting, to make hospitals safe during emergencies. Apart from choosing a safe location for building health facilities and providing resilient construction, good planning and carrying out emergency exercises in advance can help maintain critical functions.
Akunda Pallangyo: In some countries, up to 80% of the health budget is spent on building hospitals and other health facilities. Rebuilding a hospital that has been destroyed virtually doubles the initial cost. Yet it costs little to make existing hospitals resilient to extreme events.
Dr Margaret Chan: Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean shows that retrofitting a structurally sound facility will cost no more than 1% of the hospital’s budget, but will protect up to 90% of that investment.
Akunda Pallangyo: Health facilities are vulnerable to other emergencies too. Armed conflicts often target health services and cut access to care, as does poor preparation for disease outbreaks. Underinvestment, poor planning and construction and the absence of emergency planning as well as training, prevent health facilities from doing their life-saving work. International film star Jet Li is going to advocate this issue as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador. He shared his ideas at the event in Beijing.
Jet Li: Today is a very special day in Beijing, my first day working. I am so happy. I want to share my belief to everybody in the world: I always think the world becomes one family. We need to help each other, work together. Health is very important.
Akunda Pallangyo: If you would like to learn more about this subject, there are links on the transcript page of this episode. Look for the link to the podcast on the home page of the web site, at www.who.int
That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening.
If you have any comments on our podcast or have any suggestions for future health topics drop us a line. Our email address is Podcast@who.int.
For the World Health Organization, this is Akunda Pallangyo in Geneva.