Posted in Issue 92 July 2003 Member Countries
Caribbean health professionals and government officials have long recognized that all too often, hospitals do not perform satisfactorily during natural disasters. Unfortunately, new hospitals continue to be designed and constructed without careful consideration of natural hazards and risk. Attempts have been made to further an agenda of damage mitigation in health facilities. In 1996, a major conference led to the creation of an Expert Committee on Hospital Design. The Committee, formed in 1997-98, met only twice and soon became inactive.
PAHO considers it important to revive this initiative and during an April meeting in St. Martin, the terms of reference for a Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Advisory Group were drawn up. The Group, called DiMAG, will advise ministries of health (through PAHO) on design criteria and standards and on quality assurance mechanisms for construction projects (new facilities, extensions to or renovations or retrofitting of existing facilities). The DiMAG will also provide advisory services on the terms of reference for vulnerability analyses—structural, non-structural and functional—and the implementation of recommendations from the analyses.
PAHO will serve as the Secretariat for the DiMAG, which will have a multi-disciplinary membership (by invitation) of not more than 12 members. PAHO has committed to organizing and sponsoring annual meetings, although special meetings may be called to address specific issues. DiMAG members must be committed to furthering this agenda. The tenure of individual members of the Group will overlap, fostering continuity and a sustainable future.
The Group will meet in 2004 to discuss activities during the previous 12 months and evaluate the usefulness of its mandate. See http://www.disaster-info.net/carib .