Recent disasters have shown that we need to review many of the lessons we assumed we had learned in the field of humanitarian assistance, specifically in the health sector. Each emergency sees the emergence of new intervening agencies that focus on providing direct, immediate health services, often for short periods. The various scenarios should be studied to develop models of collaboration that will enable these stakeholders to apply their efforts and resources more effectively, to avert potential problems and avoid repeating the same mistakes.


Dr. Carissa F. Etienne was elected Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on 19 September 2012 and began her five-year term on 1 February 2013. From March 2008 until 1 November 2012, Dr. Etienne served as Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Services at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to that, as PAHO’s Assistant Director from July 2003 to February 2008, she led five technical areas: Health Systems and Services; Technology, Health Care and Research; Health Surveillance and Disease Management; Family and Community Health; and Sustainable Development and Environmental Health.


Major fires in public places such as nightclubs, shopping centers, markets, hotels, and hospitals have had significant social repercussions in many countries, and emphasize how important it is to raise public awareness in order to reduce or minimize risks, and to have preparedness plans to respond to such emergencies in an appropriate manner.


This material has been written mainly by health professionals in the Caribbean who, year after year, provide support to people affected by disasters in their own country or in neighboring countries. It is addressed to health sector administrators, social workers, and other professionals in the disaster and health fields, and provides a basic guide to mental health and psychosocial support, mainly in the phases of disaster preparedness and response.

This is a joint publication of the PAHO/WHO Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Department and the Mental Health Department. This publication can be downloaded (in English only) at the PAHO/WHO website:

This guide has been produced to address the vulnerability of hospitals to fires. The document is applicable to existing hospitals that can be retrofitted to improve safety against fires as well as new-build facilities.

The publication is formatted into four main sections for consideration of fires in hospitals: Prevention, Suppression, Evacuation and Evacuation Training Drills.
More information at:

CRID, together with PAHO/WHO, has created the Basic Virtual Library of Disaster Risk Management for Ministries of Health. The purpose of the Library is to provide Ministries of Health and their disaster prevention and management programs with information sources and documents related to health in emergencies and disaster situations.


altThe Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in association with Ministries of Health in the Region, promotes the Safe Hospitals initiative as an effective mechanism to save lives when disaster strikes; together, they have made significant advances in recent years. Currently, there is a growing demand for safe hospitals, as well as greater political will. An increasing number of countries have national policies on safe hospitals and are using their own resources to fund their national programs on safe hospitals.


The International Day for Disaster Reduction, held on October 13, recognizes the need to include persons with disabilities in disaster risk-reduction efforts.
This year’s theme –– “Disability and Disasters: a Not-so-obvious Conversation” –– is a call to promote and protect the rights of persons living with disabilities and to encourage their involvement in decision-making at every phase of disaster management.


The purpose of this manual, which is intended for communicators, is to ensure better media coverage of emergencies and disasters, and to encourage journalists to produce copy that focuses on prevention before disasters occur.

The book is a collaboration between PAHO/WHO and the Costa Rican National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Care (CNE), the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, the Ministry of Health, and the Journalists’ Association of Costa Rica.

More information (in Spanish) is available at:

This book, prepared by the Ministry of Health of the Dominican Republic and PAHO/WHO, is a compilation of the experiences of a group of multidisciplinary experts in disaster prevention, mitigation, and response, who have worked for three years as evaluators and professional trainers in the field of hospital safety.

The authors share ideas, tools and expertise on the structural, nonstructural, and functional components of hospital safety. They also present recommendations that will be of interest to a broad readership, for example health authorities, academics, professionals from various disciplines, medical students, health workers, technical and financial cooperation agencies, and other international institutions.

Currently, this publication is only available in Spanish. More information at:

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