Preparations are well underway to ensure that the PAHO/WHO Health Disaster Response Team is ready for deployment to any PAHO Member State affected by an emergency or disaster. Last February, 35 regional health experts—from PAHO/WHO technical programs and nationals with experience in assessing health sector damage and needs—met in San Jose, Costa Rica to review the team’s manual of procedures, update and streamline internal administrative procedures to increase flexibility in emergency situations and to encourage cooperation among team members. This was the second regional meeting; last year a similar workshop took place in the Dominican Republic. The main role of this response team is to provide quick, accurate health information that is based on coordination with local authorities and to develop technical expertise within the disaster-stricken country. Reliable health information (a value added of PAHO/WHO) and an accurate description of needs relayed by the health team on the ground will be invaluable as a decision-making tool for the PAHO/WHO Headquarters Emergency Operations Center and for preparing funding appeals.
Recent global disasters brought to light the fact that the PAHO/WHO regional health team may not work exclusively in this Region. In fact, several team members were mobilized to Indonesia, India and later to Pakistan to support WHO efforts following these major catastrophes.