Disaster Risk Reduction in Health

Emergency and disasters have an immense effect on people’s health and can have far-reaching repercussions for communities, leading to outbreaks of communicable diseases, worsening existing medical conditions or introducing new ones; property damage; disruptions of daily activities; as well as economic losses through property damages and disruption of daily activities. Unfortunately, climate change, population growth/displacement/urbanization, antimicrobial resistance/state fragility make these events vulnerable; but we can reduce disaster deaths and injuries as well as damage by managing disaster risk more effectively.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Health seeks to strengthen national capacity by strengthening identification and management of health risks as well as their abilities to protect from hazards and disasters. Preventing disasters before they occur rather than reacting after impact can be achieved, and can be applied across all aspects of society. Part of a larger effort aimed at strengthening national capacities for Disaster Risk Reduction set forth in Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), these efforts help develop national capabilities for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is the practice of identifying, assessing and mitigating all hazards to human health, infrastructure and the environment from all forms of hazards, regardless of their causes. DRR involves actions taken at local, regional, national and international levels in order to mitigate, prepare and prevent health impacts caused by disasters. DRR is an integral component of healthcare delivery systems; and also plays a significant role in building resilience against crises and disasters.

As the global environment becomes more vulnerable to natural and technological disasters, investing in disaster risk reduction becomes even more essential to global development goals such as universal health coverage (UHC), sustainable development and climate change adaptation adaptation – not to mention strengthening health systems.

Disasters and hazards have an immense health impact, from immediate needs such as emergency medical services and public health challenges to psychosocial support following the event. Furthermore, their long-term impacts may threaten lives, livelihoods and healthcare systems themselves.

Western Pacific countries are especially susceptible to disasters, with eight of the top 15 countries most severely impacted by natural hazards1. We must work together to build and sustain strong capacity for Disaster Risk Reduction in Health (DRM-H), in order to save lives and minimise disability. The Health Emergencies Programme aims to assist Member States in strengthening the four health components of disaster risk management: prevention, preparedness, response and recovery – an essential element in implementing both Hyogo Framework for Action and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

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