International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001



New Publications from PAHO/WHO

Disaster Chronicles:
El Niño 1997-1998

(only in Spanish)

Now that we are “in between Niños”, it is important to go back to the 1997-98 occurrence to extract the experiences and lessons learned, and better prepare ourselves for the next episode, which may once again bring loss of life, the spread of disease, and damage to crops and the economy, affecting the way of life of millions around the planet, particularly in developing countries.

The impact of El Niño, diffuse in time and space, affecting several countries in different ways, is not as telegenic as an earthquake or a hurricane. Yet the duration, extent, and magnitude of the last episode provoked an unprecedented institutional response in the region, well worth documenting. El Niño longer interests only physicists, meteorologists, and oceanographers, but—increasingly—decision-makers and the general public.

This book serves as a technical and institutional retrospective of the El Niño impact on the health sector, and shows how the 1997-98 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) deeply affected daily life and public health in most of the countries of Latin America. It may be consulted (and downloaded) in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format at

A small number of copies are available through the Regional Disaster Information Center (CRID), Apdo. 3745-1000, San José, Costa Rica, fax +506 231-5973,,

Or you may order this and other books from PAHO/WHO, 525 Twenty-third St., N.W. Washington DC 20037, or by emailing

Impacto de los Desastres en la Salud Pública Eric K. Noji, Editor

If you were impressed by The Consequences of Disasters on Public Health, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1997, and would like to share it with your Spanish-speaking colleagues, PAHO has just made available the Spanish translation of this important work.

Earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones, fires, and many other types of disasters have taken more than three million lives in the past 20 years and affected the lives of 800 million others, causing over US$50 billion dollars in damage to property and infrastructure. In the last decade alone, the number of internal and external refugees due to war, famine, and drought nearly doubled. Almost every day, a disaster takes place somewhere around the globe. Population growth in flood plains, along vulnerable coastlines, and near geological fault lines, as well as the rapid industrialization of developing countries, will probably increase the threat of natural and technological disasters in the coming years.

The book offers a close look at the causes of disasters and their consequences for public health, and aims to help improve disaster prevention, monitoring, and response policies. It relies on epidemiology as a basic tool for disaster analysis and control. The authors—almost all of them officials of the United States Centers for Disease Control—take advantage of their many years’ experience to provide the reader with in-depth technical descriptions of the main types of disasters, both natural and complex, offering a variety of examples and the chief findings of epidemiological surveys on the effects of disasters on public health. They pay special attention to prevention and control measures, and offer recommendations that public health officials will find highly useful.

This is an essential work of reference for health professionals who must make decisions concerning disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response, and in general for all those interested in reducing the often devastating impact of disasters on public health.

Natural Disasters: Protecting the Public’s Health

This publication outlines the health sector’s role in reducing the impact of disasters, laying out a framework that an administrator can rely on to make effective decisions in managing the health sector’s activities to reduce the consequences of disasters.
It describes the overall effects of disasters on health, highlighting myths and realities, and summarizes how the health sector must organize itself to cope with disasters. The book emphasizes the multisectoral nature of disaster preparedness and sets forth guidelines for preparing health-sector disaster plans, means of coordination, and special technical programs before a disaster strikes. It also includes ground-breaking information on the management of supplies in a disaster.

The book is primarily aimed at health sector professionals who participate in disaster preparedness, response, and mitigation. Disaster management has become such an intersectoral enterprise, however, that anyone interested in disaster mitigation will find here a useful primer. Public health students and professors also can rely on this book in formal and informal courses.


New publications in English:

Mental Health Services in Disasters: Instructor’s Manuals
By Raquel Cohen

PAHO has just released the English version of two important books addressing mental health issues of disaster-affected populations: Mental Health Services in Disasters: Instructor’s Guide and Mental Health Services in Disasters: Manual for Humanitarian Workers. These publications complement each other and are important tools in the training of relief workers to respond effectively and thereby contribute to reducing the social and psychological consequences of any disaster.

Principies of Disaster Mitigaction in Health Facilities