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

ISDR Global


Towards the World Conference on Disaster Reduction Latin American Experts set an Agenda for Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities and Vulnerability Reduction in Drinking Water Systems.

On April 21-23, 2004, two Latin American workshops were held in Managua Nicaragua. The first workshop focused on vulnerability reduction in facilities and the second one was held to discuss an action plan designed to have sustainable water and sanitation services during disaster and emergency situations. These events gathered more than 100 experts from 18 countries throughout Latin America.

As the United Nations Organization has convened the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction at the global level -to be held on January 18-22, 2005, in Kobe, Japan-, the Area for Emergency Preparedness an Disaster Relief (PED), in coordination with the Area of Technology and Health Services Delivery (THS) of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) organized these events, which were sponsored by the Association of Water and Sanitation Regulatory Entities of the Americas (ADERASA), the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the International Water and Sanitation Center (IRC).

During the workshops, a number of working groups were created to establish strategies and make recommendations for the systematic implementation of actions in health facilities throughout Latin America, between 2005 and 2015. These recommendations may be adopted by national authorities, international organizations and cooperation agencies.

The Workshop on Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities

Although the increasingly level of vulnerability to disasters remains unsolved, it is worth mentioning that, in recent years, many countries in the region have carried out activities to reduce existing risks in health facilities. In order to ensure that these actions will have a long-term impact, initiatives and strategies have been developed and translated into technical guidelines, policies, and both sectoral and national standards for designing and building health facilities.

It has been proven that even those countries with limited resources have been able to implement mitigation measures. It is now imperative to review and disseminate both successful stories and problems identified within these processes in order to replicate them and reduce all related costs.

During the workshops, and as a starting point, participants analyzed the recommendations made during the International Conference on Disaster Mitigation in Health Facilities, held in Mexico in 1996. Along these lines, most participants highlighted that there is still a lot to do in this field and more efforts most be devoted to ensure that health facilities are able to operate after the impact of a disaster.

The following are some of the major recommendations made during this workshop:

• Prevention and mitigation in health facilities must be considered and included as national policies, in order to protect both lives and investment, and guarantee that new facilities will be able operate after a disaster. Regarding existing facilities, it is important to develop programs aimed at reinforcing facilities located in high-risk areas.
• Due to the benefits that this may bring about, the establishment of effective networks for patient referral must become a widespread measure.

• It is important to promote the certification of health facilities, as a tool to achieve optimal levels of protection, and strengthen these facilities at the local level by integrating them into a network of inter-institutional services.

• Construction standards and building codes applied to health facilities must include the protection of essential areas and the overall operation of these facilities. Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure the enforcement of these codes and norms.

• It is imperative to include the field of disaster mitigation in educational programs intended for new professionals.

• It is important to include in the Kobe Conference aspects related to governance, political frameworks, responsibility, knowledge management in vulnerable communities, lessons learned (both best and poor practices), and preparedness for effective responses.

The Workshop on Vulnerability Reduction in Drinking Water Systems

One of the main goals of this workshop was to prepare an action plan for the period between 2005 and 2015, aimed at incorporating vulnerability reduction into new and existing drinking water systems, as well as at advancing and sustaining all activities carried out by a number of countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The workshop was also intended to develop a joint proposal to be submitted during the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which has been convened by the UN and will be held in Kobe, Japan, in January 2005.

During the workshop, it was proven that existing state-of-the-art technology, knowledge and successful experiences related to the sanitation and water sectors in the Americas, allow developing countries to ensure that water will be available after the impact of a disaster. It is necessary, however, that all authorities responsible for these two sectors use existing resources and past experiences efficiently, in order to make a shift in the current paradigm which states that is very expensive to protect water and sanitation against potential disasters.

It is worth mentioning that these basic services are essential to protect and advance the health and development of all peoples.

Furthermore, most participants agreed that if risk management is not included within the planning and development stages of these services, especially in areas exposed to natural hazards, they will be unnecessarily put at risk, hindering the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, which seek “to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation services.”

The following are some of the main actions included in this workshop’s conclusions. These were identified as essential and feasible actions to be carried out by all countries in the region, based upon existing experiences and knowledge to achieve sustainable services in areas exposed to natural hazards:

• Water and sanitation sectors must be convened to participate in national and local platforms for risk management;
• Water and sanitation regulatory bodies must be in charge of developing a legal framework for risk management and transfer;
• Drinking water facilities must establish a specific body responsible for the overall risk management and disaster preparedness; and,
• Projects related to water and sanitation services must include risk analyses within environmental impact assessments.

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Inter-American Water Day 2004: “Water and Disasters”

As every first Saturday of October, since 1992, this year the “Inter-American Water Day” (IAWD) will be celebrated throughout the Americas on October 2.

The celebration of the IAWD is being supported and sponsored by the following institutions: PAHO/WHO, AIDIS, CWWA, ECLAC, OAS and UNEP. The 2004 topic will be “Water and Disasters”, which was also the main theme of the World Water Day celebrated on March 22.

It has been decided throughout the region that special emphasis should be laid on the importance of water for the protection of health during disasters, as well as on the existing need to incorporate risk management into the provision of related services, including health, in disaster situations.

All countries are invited to prepare for this day in advance, so that initiatives established to commemorate October 2 are translated into successful stories. As the International Day for Disaster Reduction will be held on October 13 2004, we will be able to hold a double celebration during that month.

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