Health ministers from the Southeast Asia region of the World Health Organization on Thursday renewed their commitment to improving disaster risk management in the health sector.
In an official statement, the WHO said health ministers from 11 countries meeting in Yogyakarta for the WHO’s 65th regional committee meeting pledged to increase investment and build capacity for handling all phases of a health disaster: risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery.
Investment in disaster risk management in Indonesia was an example of this renewed commitment, the international organization said, pointing to the Center for Health Crises Management within Indonesia’s Ministry of Health.
The center was recently designated as a WHO Collaborating Center for Training and Research in Disaster Risk Reduction, holding multiple functions of overseeing capacity development and decentralized operational response in the country.
As a WHO Collaborating Center, it will serve as a knowledge base and a source of best practices in emergency risk management in the health sector, serving the needs of countries globally.
“For emergencies, information and research are needed to continuously provide evidence for development work in the health sector,” said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO’s regional director for Southeast Asia. “Health interventions in disaster risk management need to be systematically documented and analyzed.”
Pliangbangchang said in-service training for health staff was urgently needed.
“Disaster risk management must be incorporated into the existing public health and medical curricula,” he said.
Health facilities should be designed to ensure resistance to the major hazards that prevail in their locations. Emergency health facility plans should be in place and all health staff need to be familiar with them.
Pliangbangchang said this capacity development should eventually be linked to the communities and countries where needed, with a focus on building and strengthening “community resilience,” whereby people are able to help themselves during emergencies before outside assistance arrives.
The 11 countries in WHO’s Southeast Asia region — Bangladesh, Bhutan, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand — accounted for 46 percent of all deaths due to health disasters from 2001 to 2010.
Health ministers from WHO’s Southeast Asian countries have demonstrated their commitment to disaster response by establishing and managing a response fund with the international health organization.
The WHO Southeast Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund assists countries by providing funding within 24 hours of a funding request during an emergency. Its funds have been used in 13 different emergencies throughout the region since its inception in 2008.