Health & Medical

Disaster Risk Reduction in Health

As people become more cognizant of the impact of disasters on humans, communities, and economies worldwide, it has become clearer that we all must collaborate to reduce risk, mitigate damage, and increase resilience. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is an inclusive approach that encompasses all aspects of managing hazards and risks, while targeting their root causes, rather than simply their impacts, in order to reduce vulnerability against disasters. DRR for health seeks to alter this pattern by engaging the health sector as one of its primary stakeholders in identifying and assessing risks in order to make people more resilient against disasters.

Recently, health issues have become an increasing focus of international policy circles and have become an integral component of various international initiatives and goals, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (UNISDR 2015), Sustainable Development Goals- Pathway to Universal Health Coverage (United Nations 2016a) and New Urban Agenda (United Nations 2015b). This increased recognition has resulted in over 30 explicit references in the Sendai Framework as opposed to only three in its predecessor document – Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (UNWCDR 2001).

The WHO Regional Office for the Americas/Pan-American Health Organization has taken an integral part in this work, supporting countries in realizing global ambitions with its comprehensive Health Emergency Management (HEM) platform and building its own research capacity in Health-EDRM with the goal of translating global aspirations into concrete actions on country levels.

Health-EDRM is a complex task requiring multisectoral approaches and actions. PAHO’s HEM platform identifies activities essential to mitigating health consequences of disasters such as prevention, preparedness, response recovery reconstruction. Furthermore, this platform highlights how this can be supported through strong multisectoral governance structures as well as increasing DRM effectiveness while incorporating it into wider policies and programs.

PAHO’s work in disaster risk reduction in the region primarily focuses on health systems at all levels of operation and promoting resilience by encouraging individuals to take charge of their own lives – this involves providing education about vulnerabilities so individuals can make informed choices while supporting other to make similar ones.

Disaster occurs when people are exposed to conditions which threaten their survival or well-being, whether these be caused by natural processes such as flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, landslides and volcanic eruptions or by manmade processes like flooding. Disasters arise not as the result of natural processes alone but from human choices made to create or allow them to occur – for instance through wealth inequality, discrimination against groups, or failing to provide sufficient education and resources. Disasters impede progress towards prosperity, stability and resilience by taking lives, disrupting services and livelihoods, eroding assets and undoing hard-won development gains. Therefore investments in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) are vitally important in saving lives while alleviating suffering caused by poverty and inequality.

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