International Day for Disaster Reduction
   Wednesday 14 October

Safe from Disasters



Hospitals safe from disaster
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Major events worldwide
World Health Day 2009
Hospital Safety Index


Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon
The Secretary-General of United Nations
Message on the International Day for Disaster Reduction
14 October 2009

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Beyond their practical importance, hospitals and health facilities have a unique value as symbols of public well-being.  Making them safe from disasters is essential.  That is why the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, along with the World Health Organization and the World Bank, marks the International Day for Disaster Reduction by highlighting the 2008-09 World Disaster Reduction Campaign dedicated to Hospitals Safe from Disasters.

When disaster strikes, hospitals are the most critical infrastructure.  They represent – quite literally – the lifeblood of a community.  If hospitals are severely damaged, efforts to save lives are seriously impeded.  With weather-related disasters on the increase, it is critical to ensure that health facilities are prepared for emergencies and able to provide life-saving care in their wake.  This is particularly true in countries where weak health systems already struggle to meet the health needs of populations. In Burkina Faso, flooding forced the evacuation of the patients from the main hospital in the capital city.  In Indonesia, hospital collapses during the earthquake in Sumatra caused additional loss of life.  In L’Aquila, Italy, the collapse of a newly built hospital provided a grim reminder that health systems in richer nations are also at risk.

The Safe Hospitals campaign involves practical steps to make hospitals safer.  For example, the Hospital Safety Index, a checklist for assessing hospital preparedness, has been applied to many facilities in Latin America and elsewhere, including Oman, Sudan and Tajikistan.

I call on Governments and all decision-makers, including town planners, to review hospital safety.  Health facilities must be better prepared to respond to local hazards.  They must be designed, built and maintained so they can better protect health workers and patients alike when disaster hits.  The cost of making hospitals safe from disasters is relatively small.  The most expensive hospital is the one that fails


Press Release

Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative for Nepal launched
UNISDR 2009/18
14 October 2009

Press Release

International Day for Disaster Reduction
Urgent action needed to protect hospitals from natural hazards
UNISDR 2009/17
14 October 2009


Message from

Margareta Wahlström
UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

Eric Laroche
Assistant Director-General
Health Action in Crises (HAC), World Health Organization (WHO)

Disaster risk reduction is an indispensable tool to protect the health, welfare and assets of people and countries. Protecting hospitals and health facilities is a priority action to reduce disaster impacts worldwide and a common challenge that faces the international community and individual countries together.

Read the full message

Hospitals safe from disaster

The price we pay for the failure of hospitals or health facilities due to disasters is high. By comparison, the cost of making hospitals safe from disasters is small. Disaster damage to health systems is a human tragedy, resulting in economic losses, dealing devastating blows to development goals and shaking social confidence. Making hospitals and health facilities safe from disasters is an economic requirement as well as a social, moral and ethical imperative.

What has been done to date?

Asia Pacific Task Force on Safe Hospitals
A multi-stakeholder Asia Pacific Task Force on Safe Hospitals has been established, which implements projects and advocates actively for making health facilities safer. As a result, the Health Ministers of WHO’s South East Asia region have adopted the Kathmandu Declaration on Protecting Health Facilities from Disasters, taking up the goals and objectives of the Campaign and officially committing to them.

Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
Hospital safety was a key element of the Second Session of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction. The Chair’s Summary identified the following targets: by 2011, national assessments of the safety of existing health facilities to be undertaken, and by 2015, concrete action plans for and hospitals to be developed and implemented in all disaster prone countries.

Hospital Safety Index
The Hospital Safety Index, a checklist created by PAHO for assessing hospital preparedness and a rapid, reliable and low-cost diagnostic tool, was developed further. It was adapted and applied to many facilities in Latin America and in other regions and countries such as Oman, Sudan and Tajikistan.

Good practices
UNISDR and WHO collected replicable good practices on making hospitals safe from disasters, including initiatives on structural and non-structural safety, keeping hospitals working through disasters, and hospital and staff preparedness. Selected good practices will be made available in a publication later this year.

WHO World Health Day
The protection of health facilities from disasters is a priority issue for the World Health Organization. Building on the momentum of the two-year initiative, WHO dedicated its 2009 World Health Day to “Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies.” The campaign has been embraced by WHO’s global network, which works closely with 192 national health authorities. Websites, meetings, films, media interviews and more have been used to raise awareness around this vital theme.


What’s next?

The International Day for Disaster Reduction 2009 marks the launch of the Thematic Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction for Health. This platform creates a “community” to ensuring health is a central component in the field of disaster risk reduction.

The theme of the 2010-2011 World Disaster Reduction Campaign will be Building Resilient Cities, Addressing Urban Risk. Hospitals that serve as critical infrastructure in cities will remain one of the main elements of the new UNISDR city campaign.

The Global Programme on Safe Hospitals will continue to focus on advocacy and partnership among governments, financial institutions, the health sector and partners for the construction, assessment, retrofit and emergency preparedness of safer health facilities. The use of the Hospital Safety Index to assess globally the safety of health facilities will be a significant step to make more hospitals safer around the world.

Essentials for making health facilities safer

  • Develop and implement national policies and programmes to make health facilities safe in emergencies.
  • Select a safe site for the health facility.
  • Design and construct safe health facilities.
  • Assess the safety of existing health facilities.
  • Protect health workers, equipment, medicines and supplies.
  • Ensure that health facilities receive essential services.
  • Develop partnerships between health facilities and the community.
  • Develop an emergency risk management programme for individual health facilities.
  • Develop an emergency response plan for each health facility.
  • Test and update response plans with drills and exercises.
  • Train the health workers to respond to emergencies.
  • Evaluate and learn lessons from past emergencies and disasters.

Source: WHO

Examples of hospitals damaged in disasters
3812 health facilities were destroyed in the Gujarat’s earthquake, India
2003 50% of health facilities were damaged in the affected area after an earthquake in Algeria

61% of health facilities were damaged in Indonesia’s northern Aceh province after the 2004 Tusnami.

49% of health facilities completely were destroyed by the earthquake in northern Pakistan

57% of all health facilities were damaged and one in five completely destroyed in the area of Myanmar affected by Cyclone Nargis

11,028 health facilities were damaged or destroyed by the Wenchuan earthquake, China

A 175-bed Providence Hospital was completely lost due to three successive hurricanes in Gonaives, Haiti

Many hospitals collapsed or were badly damaged by disasters in Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Italy, Nepal, Samoa and Tonga
Source: WHO

Information Kit

Make hospitals safe
in emergencies

Русский – 中文

For more information www.safehospitals.info 
 Major events Worldwide
 on International Day for Disaster Reduction 2009
London, United Kingdom
This event will be hosted by the UK Health Protection Agency in collaboration with WHO and UNISDR. The event will include keynote speeches by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Chair of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and other influential figures involved in international and national efforts to reduce local and national disaster risks and other emergencies. Several key initiatives will be launched, including the announcement of a Thematic Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction for Health and the release of a new London Five Hospitals Fire Report by the National Health Service.
  See more information
bullet Dushanbe, Tajikistan
UNISDR will coordinate a region-wide photo contest on “Hospitals Safe from Disasters”and a meeting with university students and a National Public Awareness Campaign on Safe Hospitals. Also, the ECO International Conference on disaster risk management in Tajikistan is dedicated to the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
  See more information
bullet Kathmandu, Nepal
A symposium on scaling up risk reduction efforts in Nepal will be held including the presentation of a new disaster risk reduction programme for Nepal by a joint consortium (World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IFRC, OCHA and UNDP). A field trip for media to a melting glacier is also planned to highlight the negative impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations.
  See more information
bullet Bangkok, Thailand
UNISDR, together with the ASEAN Secretariat and UNESCAP, will hold an Awards Ceremony and exhibition for a regional drawing competition entitled ‘Safe Hospitals – Hospitals in ASEAN Safe from Disaster’ and will organize a panel discussion on the issue.
  See more information
bullet Maldives
UNISDR and partners (WHO, IFRC/MRC, UNDP, the Maldivian Ministry of Education, the National Disaster Management Centre and TV Maldives) will organize a field trip for school children to Dhuvaafaru Island, which was severely hit by the 2004 tsunami. A television debate among the children will be aired and the awards ceremony of a drawing competition will be held.
  See more information
bullet Panama
UNISDR and the regional partners of the campaign (IFRC, Plan International, PAHO, UNICEF) will organize a public concert of the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Panama. The awards ceremony of the regional Photo & Article Contest will be part of the event.
  See more information
bullet Nairobi, Kenya
A disaster scenario including a makeshift hospital with equipment and volunteers will be simulated, focusing on the preparedness of local hospitals. A display of information and material on hospital safety will also be shown. UNISDR will partner with WHO, OCHA, the Kenyan Ministry of State for Special Programmes, Kenya Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Medics 24, Nairobi Hospital and others on this occasion.
  See more information
bullet Welkom, Lejweleputswa District Municipality, Free State Province, South Africa
The ISDR Awareness Symposium 2009 ‘Hospitals Safe from Disasters: Reduce Risk, Protect Health Facilities, Save Lives’, will be held on 14-15 October, organized by the South African government with UNISDR support. The session on ‘Hospitals and disasters: meeting the challenges of the 2010 Soccer World Cup’, is dedicated to the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
Contact: Rhea Katsanakis, UNISDR.
  See more information
bullet Cairo, Egypt
Linking the International Day for Disaster Reduction and the Arab Environment Day, UNISDR and the League of Arab States, together with the Arab Academy, will host an advocacy event with a film viewing followed by a presentation and discussion on climate change and disaster risk.
  See more information
View all International Disaster Reduction Day partner events