Hospitals Safe from Disasters—Reduce Risk, Protect Health Facilities, Save Lives, is the theme of the World Disaster Reduction Campaign for 2008 and 2009. For the next two years, the Secretariat of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) and the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization, with the World Bank’s support, will work with national and international partners to promote efforts to protect health facilities and ensure that they continue to function during and after a disaster.

In response to this initiative, governments are expected to develop strategic action plans to ensure that hospitals and health facilities are safe from disasters, and to make risk reduction an integral part of health policies. The Campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to: protect the lives of patients and health workers through structural strengthening of medical facilities, to insure buildings and health services, and to train workers to prepare plans that will maintain the functionality of their health systems before, during, and after disasters.

It is important to promote these objectives at political summits and technical meetings; to document and share good practices on how to make hospitals safer; and to include essential health services such as primary care centers, blood banks, laboratories, and emergency services in the campaign. It is also necessary to involve professionals from different disciplines (engineers, architects, maintenance workers) in risk identification and reduction, and to identify those health services where strategic action plans can be implemented, involving governments, the health sector, and other actors.

To mark the beginning of the campaign in Quito, Ecuador, the Minister of Health introduced the National Policy on Safe Hospitals on 14 February. In Central America, the campaign was launched in Panama on 11 March and in El Salvador at the regional meeting of the Coordination Center for Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC). Similar activities will take place throughout the Region in the next few months. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.unisdr.org/wdrc-2008-2009, www.safehospitals.info, or www.who.int/hac/techguidance/safehospitals/en.