Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Lima, Peru, May 16 - 17, 2005



Recent natural disasters, such as Hurricane Mitch in Central America, flash floods in Venezuela and Haiti, earthquakes in Iran and Turkey and lately the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, have caused enormous destruction and thousands of fatal casualties and have challenged the countries directly affected and the international community in their capacity to adequately respond to and manage large numbers of dead victims.

For example, it is now known that fears about cadavers spreading epidemics are unfounded. Yet they still often lead to mass and hasty burials and cremations, which may actually lead to adverse effects on survivors and their communities. Authorities in charge therefore need alternatives to guide the appropriate management of large quantities of human remains in such situations.

In response to these and other related challenges the PAHO and the ICRC have produced guidelines to help improve the management of human remains.

The devastating tsunami which affected S.E. Asia in December 2004 happened 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.

The tragedy in S.E Asia has paradoxically offered an opportunity, in light of lessons learnt, to revise the recommendations included in these publications, with a view to their improvement where necessary, and to promote their wide dissemination and effective implementation by all concerned stakeholders, including Governmental institutions, Inter-Governmental Organizations and humanitarian agencies to help better respond to future disasters.

For this purpose, the Pan American Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross convened to organize an international workshop to discuss challenges and review existing recommendations on the management of dead bodies in disaster situations.


To improve disaster preparedness and promote the proper and dignified management of dead bodies in disaster situations


  • Share recent lessons learnt from the management of dead bodies of victims of natural disasters, including the tsunami in S.E. Asia.
  • Review and up-date where necessary existing guidelines and recommendations on the management of dead bodies, particularly those contained in the corresponding PAHO/WHO and ICRC publications.
  • Promote dissemination and implementation of appropriate guidelines and recommendations for the management of dead bodies of victims of natural disasters and corresponding disaster preparedness.


Technical presentations of 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers.

Panel: Moderator introduces the topic and gives the floor to the speakers for 20-25 minutes presentations. After the presentations there will be a period for questions & answers and conclusions.

Group discussions on main topics: Each topic will be introduced by 5 minutes presentations followed by 45 minutes of discussion and 10 minutes of conclusions.

Group discussions on recommendations: Plenary sessions will convene on group conclusions presented by rapporteurs.

All participants are expected to be familiar with the PAHO and the ICRC publications on the management of dead bodies/human remains: "Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations" and "Operational Best Practices Regarding the Management of Human Remains and Information on the Dead by Non-Specialists" respectively.

There will be simultaneous English-Spanish interpretation.




Monday, May 16

08:30     Purpose, objectives, methodology and introduction of participants. Jean Luc Poncelet, Yves Etienne

09:00     document The need for operational best practices for the management of human remains . Yves Etienne & Morris Tidball

09:30     Retrospective analysis of large disasters in the Americas. Jean Luc Poncelet

10:00     Break

10:30     Earthquake and Tsunami in South East Asia.
             Moderator: Sulasmi

12:30     Lunch

14:00     Groups discussions on main concepts

             Group I:

  • document Preparedness . Celso Bambaren & Eric Dykes
  • Humanitarian aspects. Walter Cotte & Felícita Zeledon
  • Disaster victim identification management. Stephen Cordner & Luis Rodas

             Group II:

  • Epidemiological aspects. Oliver Morgan & Luis Suarez
  • Socio-cultural aspects. Andrés Patiño & Boonchai Somboonsook
  • Psychological aspects. Santiago Valero & Morris Tidbal

17:00     Plenary: Group conclusions. PAHO/CICR


Tuesday, 17 May

09:00     Visit to the general Morgue of Lima (National Institute of Legal Medicine)

10:30     How to overcome the myths on dead bodies? Marta Aliaga

11:00     Training needs and activities. John Abo

11:30     Groups discussion on practical recommendations. Nelly Calderon & Rochman Arief

  • Group I: Recommendations for authorities - Maximo Duque & Ciro Ugarte
  • Group II: Recommendations for operational personnel - Philippe-Antoine Gaillard & Dana Van Alphen

13:00     Lunch

14:30     Plenary: Recommendations. Yves Etienne & Jean Luc Poncelet

16:00     Workshop conclusions and closure