(From Left) Mr. Luis Felipe Puente Espinosa,Dr. Somia Okued, Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Moderator Steve Kraus, Dr Bruce Aylward, Mr Elhadj As Sy, and Dr Ali Ardalan. (Photo: UNISDR)
By Andy McElroy
SENDAI, 15 March 2015
– The Mayor of Christchurch today said that inclusion of health “is an absolute minimum requirement” for the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
Mayor Ms. Lianne Dalziel told the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction that greater health resilience shortens the response to, and recovery from, disaster.
“My experience in Christchurch (earthquakes in 2010 and 2011) means I can sit here as a Mayor – among a panel of health experts – and say that health is an absolute minimum requirement for any disaster risk management framework,” Mayor Dalziel said.
She emphasized to the ‘Disaster Risk Management for Healthy Societies’ forum that when local government “own” initiatives of prevention – whether for health or disaster risk – it “really does make a big difference”.
Mayor Dalziel pointed to the city’s pre-existing preventative approach in health care being a significant factor in why there was no disease outbreak in the city after the earthquake despite water supplies and sewerage being damaged.
Christchurch suffered earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, which caused damage of USD4 billion and USD12 billion respectively. The second earthquake killed 185 people and injured thousands of others.
Assistant Director General of WHO, Dr. Bruce Aylward, provided a more global perspective that drew the same conclusion: “DRR is all about health; the centrality of health to DRM is clear when you look at all crises,” he said.
Dr. Aylward referenced several cases when stating that health “is ranking at the top of unmet needs of every crisis,” whether a disaster as a result of natural hazard (Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines), a health emergency (the Ebola outbreak) or armed conflict (in Syria or Central Africa Republic).
He welcomed the fact that there were some 30 references to health in the draft post-2015 framework but said guidance was needed in six key areas to translate this into action: policy framework; risk assessment; surveillance and early warning; use of the International Health Regulations; preparedness for response; and health as a part of national disaster management agencies.
Two good examples of disaster and health-related resilience initiatives in action were provided from Iran and Turkey.
Dr Ali Ardalan, Director of the Disaster Risk Management Office of Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education outlined a DRM metrics tool being developed for the country’s health system. It includes three areas: Functional readiness; structural safety; and non-structural safety. A Hospital Safety Index aggregates scores to provide an assessment on a scale of 1 (Dangerous) to 10 (safe).
Mr. Luis Felipe Puente Espinosa, General Coordinator of Mexico’s Civil Protection, recounted his country’s Safe Hospitals Initiative that has seen 176 new hospitals built according to resilient standards since 2007. The collective investment of just over USD1.5 billion serves a population of 18 million.
The Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mr Elhadj As Sy, called for new forms of partnership – between community and government; the public and private sectors; and health professional and community workers – to achieve a “complete state of wellbeing” and resilience.
Dr. Somia Okued, Director-General of Sudan’s Emergency and Humanitarian Reponses, emphasized that in crisis-vulnerable countries, an interconnected national approach to resilience is vital. She said Sudan was trying to move towards making all development programming planning sensitive to climate impacts.
The session was moderated by Mr Steve Kraus, Director, Regional Support Team for UNAIDS Asia and the Pacific.