Global efforts to make hospitals safe from disasters
Much has been done to ensure that health facilities can better cope with emergencies and to increase awareness of the vital role that health facilities play in emergencies. “Hospitals Safe from Disasters” is the theme of the 2008–2009 World Disaster Reduction Campaign, which focuses on natural disasters and the damage they can cause to hospitals in particular. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the World Bank and WHO are jointly involved in this campaign. WHO’s regional and country offices have been instrumental not only in helping to share best practices in health facility preparedness for emergencies but also in implementing such guidance and making hospitals and clinics more resilient and functional.
While much work has been done to raise the issue of emergency preparedness for health facilities and to build a "community" of people and parties dedicated to the cause, efforts remain sporadic and are neither sufficiently integrated into government development and emergency response plans nor properly harmonized with other sectors.
WHO's partners, including WHO's regional and country offices and ministries of health, are also leading the way in advocating how best to safeguard health facilities and their personnel and patients. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which advocates for the protection of health personnel and services in conflict settings, and its sister organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which works with communities on emergency preparedness at community level in natural disasters, play critical roles in making hospitals safe from disasters. Donors and financial institutions – including the World Bank, USAID and DIPECHO – have answered the call by offering funding to make health facilities safer.
WHO is devoting World Health Day 2009 to the theme of health facilities in emergencies – “Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies” – to further strengthen the imperative that health facilities must be prepared to withstand emergencies so that they can treat patients both during crises and afterwards. The World Health Day campaign builds on the "Hospitals Safe from Disasters" campaign and calls for hospitals to be safer in all types of emergencies, including natural disasters, conflicts and outbreaks of communicable diseases.
World Health Day is more than just a one-day event. WHO, from its country and regional offices and headquarters, is continuously working with international and national partners to assist countries in preparing their health facilities and staff for emergencies. What 7 April 2009 marks is the launch of the next step of a campaign to build resilience into our health systems so that hospitals, clinics and staff can withstand the next crisis, whatever it may be, and provide the health care that their communities need in times of emergency.