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

In the Spotlight: The Role of the University


Patagonia, Argentina
Regional Disaster Seminars
Dr. Enrique Stein

The National University of Comahue, in Patagonia, Argentina, has been organizing Regional Disaster Seminars every year since 1993. In 2000, the Seventh Annual Seminar will focus on interdisciplinary training for the establishment and development of Emergency Committees for public hospitals in the region, which covers the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquen.

Earlier Annual Seminars have concentrated on volcanic disaster preparedness, given the number of active volcanoes in this part of the Andes, as well as on traffic accidents and flood preparedness in the event of structural damage to several large hydroelectric dams in the area. In 1994, for instance, a disaster preparedness video was produced to help communities deal with the eruption of Copahue Volcano. Other Seminars have resulted in the subsequent establishment of Emergency Committees in the Chos Malal Hospital (1994), the Heller Hospital in Neuquen’s capital (1996), the Centenario Hospital (1996) and the Zapala Hospital in 1999. Most of these were modeled on the previous experience of the Neuquen Regional Hospital Committee—the most comprehensive in Patagonia. The Committee’s coordinator is Dr Esteban Bonorino, permanent staff member of Comahue University’s Public Health Faculty, which organized the seminars with the sponsorship and participation of consultants from the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Program (PED-PAHO/WHO), the PAHO Country Office, and the Regional Disaster Information Center for Latin America and the Caribbean (CRID).

On 30 October 1999, a road accident drill took place on Route 7, linking Neuquen Capital with a nearby town. The exercise was organized jointly by the Argentinean Trauma Society and the University of Comahue, with the sponsorship of PAHO. Members of the fire brigade, the provincial police, metropolitan hospitals and other social sectors concerned with medical emergencies participated in the drill.

The seminars’ curricular development was supervised by the University Institute for Health Sciences. The Institute’s Chair of Public Health has been occupied since 1993 by Dr.Enrique Stein, PAHO consultant in Human Resources and Mental Health, whose proposal for the creation of a Regional Center on Disasters (CRISODE) was accepted by the University.

During these past six years, two-day seminars attended by doctors, nurses, social workers, engineers, psychologists, economists, geologists, firefighters, police officers, community health workers and the media have enabled the university to sustain a modest but effective initiative to improve accident and disaster preparedness, strengthen the Disaster Committees of the region’s hospitals, and actively incorporate the issue into graduate and postgraduate courses offered by the National University of Comahue.

At every stage, this initiative has received the full collaboration of the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination Program (PED) of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For further information contact:
Dr. Enrique Stein, specialist in Psychiatry and Public Health,
PAHO/WHO Consultant,
Santa Cruz 724 (8300),
Neuquen, Argentina. or