Posted in Issue 99 April 2005 News from PAHO/WHO
Many natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch in Central America, flash floods in Venezuela and Haiti, and earthquakes in Iran and Turkey have challenged the capacity of both the affected countries and the international community to adequately manage the large number of deaths. The devastating tsunami in South Asia in December 2004 occurred shortly after the publication of PAHO/WHO’s Management of Dead Bodies in Disasters and the ICRC’s Operational Best Practices Regarding the Management of Human Remains and Information on the Dead by Non-Specialists.
A direct connection between corpses and epidemics has never been scientifically demonstrated or reported. Yet this unfounded fear often leads to mass and hasty burials and cremations, which may actually have a more adverse impact on survivors and their communities. National authorities and disaster managers need clear alternatives to guide the management of large quantities of human remains in such situations. In order to improve preparedness for the proper and dignified management of dead bodies in disaster situations, PAHO and the ICRC organized an international workshop in May in Peru. This is part of a global effort to improve not only the adequate management of human remains after large-scale disasters, but primarily to provide better humanitarian assistance to survivors. View the proceedings and conclusions of the meeting at www.paho.org/disasters. Contact Dr. Ciro Ugarte (ugarteci@paho. org) for more information.