International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   


Disaster Programs within the Health Sector

Disasters represent a problem for public health as they can cause a large number of deaths, injuries and diseases, and thereby also affect the psychological and social behavior of communities. In addition, they can damage health facilities, which puts at risk the health of the population at large. Adverse events have an impact on the environment as well, increasing risks and causing environmental damage which, at the same time, can increase morbidity rates and deaths. Some disasters can also cause food shortages and all related nutritional consequences, as well as the displacement of the population. In health terms, the consequences of disasters have always been significant and thus special attention has been paid to them at the national, regional and worldwide levels.

In 1976, the Pan-American Health Organization, pursuant to the request of the Ministries of Health in the Americas, established the Area on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief. Its purpose is to support the activities of the health sector in terms of disaster preparedness, response and mitigation; the strengthening of national programs for disaster reduction, and the interaction between all sectors involved in such undertakings. In recent years, the approach taken has been the integration of the health sector into risk and disaster management. For this reason, the programs established seek to build their capacity at the sectoral level for action, response and, above all, prevention. Both, the vision of a joint effort with other sectors and the exchange of experiences have represented a priority.

For further information, please visit this webpage where you will find varied and technical information on disasters and health.