Essential Medicines List for Emergencies and Disasters in the Caribbean

Every year, countries are faced by threats of hurricanes, floods, landslides, earthquakes and volcanoes. Several diseases have been observed in the aftermath of such disaster situations. For example, floods can potentially increase the transmission of water-borne diseases; vector-borne diseases can also be observed. Other illnesses of main concern after disaster events are skin problems and trauma, and of less occurrence are rabies, Clostridium dificile, tetanus, snake bite, meningitis, acute respiratory infections, and acute malnutrition. Mental health problems may also increase following a disaster. However, as the disaster impact worsens; the risk of communicable diseases, especially among women and children, is a health threat to the community.

Soon after an emergency, it is important to focus in providing continuous health services in health facilities, disease surveillance, and providing the needed essential medicines. During emergencies and disasters, a standard medicines list permits an effective response with medicines and medical devices using standard, pre-packed kits that could be kept in readiness to meet priority health needs. The provision of the medicines from this publication will help in reducing any excess in morbidity and mortality due to communicable and non communicable diseases in populations affected by disasters and emergencies.

This technical document is the result of the inter-programmatic work of PAHO/WHO’s Area of Health Systems Based on Primary Health Care/Medicines and Health Technologies and the Area on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief. Essential medicines have been selected with due regard to disease prevalence, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness. The 16th Edition of the Model List of Essential Medicines (2010) and the Interagency Emergency Health Kit (2006) were used as references.

The list is proposed as a first approach to be used as contribution for the national disaster preparedness plans which need to be updated regularly.

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