In light of the disaster in Japan, the Alliance reiterates the pivotal role played by health workers during emergencies

Patients in a hospital in Otsuchi lay on the floor, waiting to be transferred to other hospitals.
© AP/Yomiuri Shimbnun

Geneva, 16 March 2011 | Following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on the north east coast of Japan on 11 March, the Global Health Workforce Alliance (the Alliance) appeals to all its members and partners to be on standby to provide support to the affected populations, if required. So far more than 90 countries and six international organizations have pledged their support for the stricken country.

"Our hearts go out to all the people in Japan during this difficult time. Today, we are humbled by the forces of nature. The health and well-being of tens of thousands of people in Japan are at risk." said Dr Mubashar Sheikh, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Especially during times of crisis, countries rely on health workers to provide emergency health services in their communities – caring for those injured or affected by psychological trauma, preventing critical infectious disease outbreaks, while also meeting everyday essential health needs such as chronic disease care, caring for the elderly populations and maternal and child health services. In Japanese context, health workers are working around the clock to check for radiation exposure and dealing with radiation-related health consequences. More health workers will also be needed to provide services during the recovery and reconstruction phase.

A doctor from the affected area wrote in to say "Upon seeing our helicopter, hundreds of the injured were rushing out asking for help. But we had to be selective, giving priority to the severe cases. I am afraid that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many are still waiting for health personnel’s assistance."

As Japan witnesses this tragedy, the Alliance pledges its support to health workers across the world and calls upon governments and partners to remember the pivotal role played by health workers in the delivery of health care, especially during and after emergencies.