A Region at Risk
The Latin American and Caribbean Region is exposed to a wide variety of emergencies and disasters of increasing scale and frequency, which affect the Region each year. These events have a significant impact on the health of populations and constitute a major challenge for Latin American and Caribbean countries in protecting their people’s well-being.
In the period between 2007-2016, around 24% of the disasters caused by natural phenomena that occurred worldwide took place in the region of the Americas, killing over 247 thousand, affecting more than 203 million people and causing total damage of 466 billion US dollars. Each year, these numbers grow, posing serious threats to public health and countries’ development.
Emerging health emergencies, such as the Zika virus epidemic which exposed more than 500 million people in the LAC Region, represent new threats to public health and demand a broader scope for preparedness and response.
PAHO’s Work in Health Emergencies
The objective of the Pan American Health Organization’s work in health emergencies is to increase the health sector’s resilience to emergencies and disasters. PAHO assists its Member States to strengthen their health sector’s capacities in the area of prevention, risk reduction, preparedness, surveillance, response to and early recovery from emergencies and disasters related to any hazards (natural, man-made, biological, chemical, radiological and others). When national capacities are overwhelmed, PAHO supports countries to lead and coordinate the international health response to contain disasters, including outbreaks, and to provide effective relief and recovery to affected populations.
PAHO/WHO’s work in health emergencies is articulated according to six main areas of work:
- Infectious Hazard Management;
- Country Health Emergency Preparedness and IHR;
- Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment;
- Emergency Operations;
- Disaster Risk Reduction;
- Emergency Core Services.
PAHO/WHO generates and disseminates knowledge about all aspects of public health emergency preparedness, risk reduction and response. Available publications include technical guidelines on public health and disasters; up-to-date information for decision making through the Emergency Operation Center; epidemiological alerts; lessons learned and evidence-based information; information tools, services and centers, such as the Regional Disaster Information Center, the Health and Disasters portal, the Health Operations in Emergencies portal, and others.