The experience of countries affected by large-scale natural disasters in the Americas has revealed very specific humanitarian needs in the health sector. However, contrary to what the national and international press reports, most of the supplies that are needed to meet the immediate needs are already available in the country.

One of the more popular items on the "shopping list" of equipment and supplies presented to the international donor community is the field hospital.

Following are some points to keep in mind when considering making a request for a field hospitals in the aftermath of a disaster.

For a field hospital to be useful, it should:

  • be fully operational within 24 hours of the disaster.
  • be able to provide services that  coincide with medical needs.
  • allow for national health personnel to operate the technology contained within.

Should a field hospital be necessary, national authorities should determine if there are already field hospitals that comply with the above criteria, and use these first.

The benefit of accepting donated field hospitals should be carefully examined, bearing in mind that:

  • The period of time it will take for a field   hospital from a donor country to arrive, be set up and become fully operational will be greater than the need for urgent medical care to the victims, which is during the initial hours of a disaster.
  • Donor countries will include the high cost of transporting these hospitals as part of their "collaboration". These funds could be put to better use for other more necessary supplies.
  • Maintenance of a little-used, temporary facility is subsequently very high and becomes a burden on the affected country.
  • The donation of this type of hospital can be a public relations coup for the affected country and the donor agency, even though the use of the donation is minimal.

When it comes to the issue of field hospitals in the aftermath of disasters, DO NOT...

  • Support requests for field hospitals from abroad.
  • Encourage donors (countries and organizations) to donate field hospitals.
  • Accept donations of field hospitals that do not comply with the basic criteria.


Department of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief

Tel: (202) 974-3434

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