International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
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Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean        Inssue No. 15, 1999


BIBLIODES – Prevention Pays

The 27th issue of BIBLIODES gathers bibliographic referen-ces in three specific areas related to disaster prevention and reduction and the 1999 World Campaign. The areas are:

  • Risk prevention, mitigation
    and management
  • Emergency planning
  • Community organization

This latest issue is available at the CRID Website:


PAHO/WHO Publications

Mental Health for Disaster Victims
Manual for Workers
Guide for Instructors
Raquel Cohen

An outstanding compen-dium of the latest knowledge in this difficult field, in a world in which the impact of natural disasters is increa-singly dramatic. The book highlights key issues in dealing with victims of disasters, particularly the most vulnerable: children, the elderly, AIDS victims, people with special medi-cation requirements, and their interactions with other victims. The manual is aimed at all disaster workers who have to deal with victims. It also looks at the psychosocial and psycho-physiological implications of disasters in the short and the long term. The book’s chief goal is to provide well-organized, prompt advice for disaster workers, including special advice for public mental-health workers who may not be familiar with disaster response issues, so as to prevent the negative mental and emotional consequences of a catastrophe among the affected population. The Manual for Workers can serve as the basis for training workshops and courses. The Guide for Instructors is designed flexibly so that it can be translated into several languages and adapted to the customs of different countries or regions. The ultimate objective is to ensure that relief workers are well trained so they can respond effectively to a disaster and reduce the social and psychological side effects.

Disaster Chronicles
Cariaco Earthquake, Venezuela

Many lessons can be learned from specific natural disasters. To make sure these lessons do not un-heeded, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) publishes Disaster Chroni-cles, technical and scientific reports and studies that analyze the impact of parti-cular disasters on public health and the health sector in Latin America and the Caribbean. The conclusions drawn from specific events are meant to improve disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness efforts.

The Cariaco Earthquake shook Venezuela in July 1997. It was one of the most severe earthquakes to affect that South American country in the 20th Century. While it cannot be described as a major disaster, in terms of the number of dead or injured, it is an excellent case study to evaluate the response of the local and national health sector to an emergency that effected the state of Sucre, since it exemplifies many of the problems that frequently characterize efforts to respond to an unforeseen emergency. The report provides a wealth of detail on the magnitude of the disaster for the health sector, the relief and response actions launched, and the degree of coordination at the local, state and national level, as well as the handling of national and international humanitarian aid. Its analysis of the lessons learned should prove relevant to all relief workers and health sector managers who must contribute to disaster response in Latin America.

Disaster Chronicles
Hurricanes Georges and Mitch

Georges and Mitch have joined the infamous elite of names that will never be used again to describe future disasters, a list that also includes hurricanes Camille, Andrew, Hazel and Hugo. The “privilege” is reserved for those hurricanes that have had a devastating impact and will likely be referred to and analyzed for decades. Georges and Mitch hit the Central American and Caribbean region with little more than a month’s gap between them, in September and October 1998. This publication compiles eight national reports describing the facts and analyzing the impact of the disasters and the response by the health sector in the most affected countries, so that the lessons learned can be put to good use in the future.

Readers of these reports will be able to reply to such questions as, Was the health sector prepared? How did it respond? What were the main challenges in providing humanitarian health assistance? What measures should be taken to improve matters in the future? What lessons can we learn from these two hurricanes?

The book may not only be consulted but also downloaded over the Internet, at
(English summary, but book only available in Spanish at the moment)

Humanitarian Assistance In Disaster
Situations: Guide For Effective Aid

Humanitarian assistance after a disaster is not without controversy. In fact, it is often the source of heated debates after disaster response managers and the general public have gotten over the initial shock of the event. Is it actually beneficial, or does it divert valuable human and other resources from focusing on the response effort? The answer depends on the type of aid and how it is managed. This guide insists that humanitarian assistance can be invaluable if it matches the real needs of people on the ground. When unsolicited aid arrives, based on an erroneous picture of people’s needs, it can actually be a burden.

This guide provides suggestions and practical advice to increase the effectiveness of aid and maximize the benefits to the affected sectors of the population. It is available in both English and Spanish.

The book may be consulted – and downloaded – at the following Web site:
(in Spanish)
(in English)
(Click on the “New Publications” button)

A small number of print copies are available. For more information, please contact:


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For more information, please contact:
Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Program
Subregional Office for Central America
Fax (506) 257-2139
Subregional Office for South America
Apdo. 17-07-8982 Quito, Ecuador
Fax (593-2) 46-4630
Subregional Office for the Caribbean
Fax: (1-246-) 436-6447