As part of its disaster preparedness action program, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) is supporting PAHO/WHO in two projects that promote the concept of safe hospitals as a way to reduce the health sector’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
In South America, the project “Safe Hospitals: Health Sector Preparedness for Disaster Situations” aims to put into practice the objectives of the ongoing World Disaster Reduction Campaign.
The project will demonstrate vulnerability of health facilities in the department of Cochabamba in Bolivia, the province of Manabí in Ecuador, and the department of Arequipa in Peru. Physical improvements will be made in priority hospitals to assist in their preparedness for adverse events. The project will also develop technical capacity and promote the design of model programs for safe hospitals at the local and/or national level.
In the Caribbean, the project “Strengthening Communities through Safer Health Care Facilities” was launched with a workshop based on the Hospital Safety Index from 29 January to 1 February. Twenty-five people were trained to apply the Index in eight hospitals in Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Montserrat, Anguilla, and Barbados. The project also aims to strengthen communities by supporting preparedness and safety activities in health care facilities, thus ensuring they can remain operational in disaster situations.
The Hospital Safety Index evaluates each facility individually, assessing its location, construction, condition, support systems, and disaster preparedness and response plans. It therefore provides an excellent diagnosis that leads to the initiation of a safe hospital strategy.
ECHO’s program on disaster preparedness (DIPECHO) strengthens local preparedness to reduce the vulnerability of the neediest populations. With intensive collaboration from national and international actors, each DIPECHO action plan defines priorities and principal areas of intervention. In addition to the Caribbean and the Andean countries, DIPECHO has a long history of collaboration in Central America, where Action Plan VI will begin in a few months. PAHO works closely with ECHO to ensure that initiatives to strengthen local and national capacity for disaster reduction include the health sector. DIPECHO projects provide excellent opportunities to promote the U.N.’s World Disaster Reduction Campaign 2008-2009, and to demonstrate achievements made in reducing risk in health facilities.