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

Socios en Acción


Latest PAHO Publications

Protection of Mental Health in Disasters and Emergency Situations

Based on the experience gained through the most important disasters occurred in recent years in Latin America and the Caribbean, this publication includes practical guidelines for improving the planning of mental healthcare provided to those affected populations. This document does not only include disasters caused by natural hazards, but also a number of effects produced by what are called ‘complex emergencies’. It also offers guidelines to work particularly in the aftermath or during the most critical moment of these emergencies. Along these lines, it focuses on community efforts and promotes coordination between the multiples bodies that work in the field of mental health.

It can be found at the following

Sanitary Epidemiological Surveillance in Disaster Situations: Guide for the Local Level

This guide was developed to address the clear need for Latin American and Caribbean countries to have guidelines and standards for improving epidemiological surveillance in disaster situations, especially at the local level. The main goal of this guide is to address existing needs regarding sanitary information, strategies and tools, in order to facilitate managerial skills of local health workers and bring about important outcomes in the field of disaster management. This guide is considered a practical, open, flexible and dynamic tool which will be improved through new national and local experiences acquired in the future.

It can be found at the following URL:

In addition, a limited number of copies is available at CRID (Regional Disaster Information Center). Requests may be sent to

Course in Hospital Planning for Disasters
Available in CDROM (in Spanish only)

Hospitals play a key role within current health systems, as well as when an emergency situation arises. These are the most common places to which the population goes in search of responses to their immediate health needs. It must be taken into account, however, that besides the “disaster” being experienced outside, it is likely that hospitals will be also affected internally and, hence, they will have to endure potential damages regarding their infrastructure, equipment and functioning in general, and their patients might get injured. As a result, internal emergencies or disasters may arise as well.

It is imperative, then, that hospitals have integrated plans to identify risks and reduce them. In this manner, they will be prepared to cope with any potential internal or external emergency situation and/or disaster. Development, assessment, endorsement and dissemination of a Hospital Plan in case of Disasters should be the result of a broad-based process. Along these lines, hospitals should be held accountable for developing and establishing these plans. This course represents a valuable tool for facilitating this planning stage and providing guidelines –especially to those responsible for hospital management–, through the entire process. Its development was the result of a long and participatory process, and the course has already been taught throughout Central and South America through the holding of more than fifteen sessions. All related documents have been adapted to different realities, gathering in this manner a large number of practical recommendations. This guarantees that an ongoing process will lead to the revision and improvement of the course.

The contents of this training course range from the concept of risk itself to the preparation of hospital plans. Specifically, the following outcomes are expected at the end of each course:

1. An initial analysis of the main existing threats;
2. Preliminary assessment regarding both vulnerability in hospitals and resources available for responses;
3. A proposal for developing a Hospital Plan in case of Disasters; and,
4. A test of the plan proposed and specific recommendations for its improvement.

The course comprises eight technical lessons and is divided in various modules or complementary working documents: lesson plans or instructor’s guide, participant’s manuals, visual aids (PowerPoint format), evaluation forms and reference material.

Intervention of Laboratories and Blood Banks in Disaster Situations

Training material available in CDROM

Laboratories and blood banks must play an essential role in natural disaster situations and must be incorporated into emergency plans for the health sector. With the purpose of providing a useful resource that facilitates preparedness and strengthening processes, PAHO/WHO have developed this technical training material. Its primary goal is to raise awareness and provide health authorities, directors and laboratory and blood bank technicians with guidelines, in order to identify their roles and responsibilities in the presence of a disaster situation, based on their priorities, needs and local capacities in terms of immediate responses.

This CDROM includes the following:

  1. A technical publication on related issues produced by PAHO in 2001, which summarizes the role of laboratories and blood banks in disaster situations, as well as the actions to be taken to be prepared, should emergencies arise;
  2. A PowerPoint presentation with educational purposes. This presentation may be used in seminars and courses that address these issues; and,
  3. A script regarding the contents of this presentation.

Slide Sets now available in Electronic Format

For over 20 years, PAHO produced a large number of slide sets to be used as training material in courses and workshops on disaster-related issues. However, their duplication and distribution were costly and time-consuming. After evaluating these slides, PAHO converted part of the material, still technically valid, into electronic format, producing in this manner a user-friendly CDROM which is easier to distribute and reproduce.

(Only the documents marked with the star (*) sign are available in both English and Spanish)


• Pre-hospital healthcare and hospital healthcare (*)
• Mental healthcare in disaster situations (*)
• Hospital safety (Spanish only)
• Manual for the bacteriological analysis of natural waters in disaster situations (*)
• Earthquakes and Hospitals, parts 1 and 2
• Risk and resource maps (*)
• Managing dead bodies in disaster situations (Spanish only)
• Hospital drills for disaster situations (Spanish only)
• Earthquake in Mexico (1985) (*)

Health Preparedness for Disaster Situations: a Guide at the Local Level

Experience has shown that it is essential to be prepared for disasters at both national and local levels. When a disaster takes places, communities directly affected are the ones that need immediate responses. Usually, communities themselves are in charge of such actions, and they have to use their own resources and technical and human capacities before receiving external aid and support.

Work at the local level is based on a broad-based participatory process with different institutions and civil society at large. Measures to be taken involve different sectors such as education, housing, transport and health. Each sector is responsible for working jointly with stakeholder bodies, making sure that those actions required within their own sectors are taken.

With this publication, PAHO intends to provide health staff and members of local emergency committees with guidelines at the local level, so that the health sector is prepared to face disaster situations. One of the most important elements in this process is broad participation of the health sector in local emergency committees, as well as in the establishment of a local emergency health plan which, in fact, represents one of the basic tools for this sector’s preparedness. In order to put this into practice, it is necessary to adapt any recommendations set forth in this document to the characteristics and reality of each country, region and local community.

As in the case of most publications produced by PAHO, there is a limited number of copies available through CRID ( -