National Disaster Response Teams in the Health Sector in Central America

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A Challenge for the Strengthening of Preparedness and Response

One of the ways in which countries can strengthen their capacities to face disasters is to have national teams with qualifications, training and the necessary tools. In this context, Central America has begun the formation of a team of specialists in health issues which can be mobilized to support the national health structure, in the event of large-scale disaster situations. Despite the effectiveness of this initiative, it is clear that in sudden disasters or in disasters of a lesser scale, the mobilization of an international team is more difficult in the first case or difficult to justify in the second.

As a result, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the PAHO Disaster Program is developing a project, in Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with the purpose of strengthening the disaster response capacity of health sector facilities in each one of the countries. In order to do so, it has been considered necessary to have emergency response teams trained to manage the health aspects of a disaster, are equipped with the appropriate tools to carry out their work in the affected areas, have available technical intervention guides and a platform for information management and decision-making through the Emergency Operations Centers in Health (EOC-H).

National emergency response teams in each of the countries will become the pillar of strengthened local and communal capacities for response to the health aspects of disasters, and therefore, as the project is concluded it is hoped that these teams will have an integral and multi-disciplinary perspective, with specialists trained in areas such as damage assessment, epidemiology, mental health, health services, water and sanitation, administration, logistics and communication.

The project has begun updating technical training tools (guide for the preparation of simulations and drills), technical disaster response guides and the implementation of coordination mechanisms (EOC-H).

In the long-term it is hoped that each country will continue to strengthen response capacity of the sector through promotion and sharing of the tools and capacities brought about by the project. This follow up will ensure that support teams are available at departmental and municipal level.

Finally, the project has identified as one of its main strengths the creation of a network of national teams, linked to the regional health emergency response team which ensures the exchange of experiences and in-country support during preparedness and response to emergencies. For more information write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief

525 23rd Street, N.W. - Washington, D.C. 20037, U.S.A.
202.974.3399 - Fax 202.775.4578 - disaster@paho.org - www.paho.org/disasters