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Make hospitals disaster proof - WHO

Thurs April 9th, 2009

Good design of health services can save thousands of lives in an emergency - and all countries need to prepare, the World Health Organisation has warned.

WHO has issued six recommendations to governments to improve preparation for disasters.

World Health Day this week was launched in China where 87,000 died in an earthquake last year and some 11,000 hospitals and clinics were destroyed.

WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan said: "With our world threatened by the harmful effects of climate change, more frequent extreme weather events and armed conflicts, it is crucial that we all do more to ensure that health care is available at all times to our citizens, before, during, or after a disaster."

WHO's first piece of advice is to assess the safety of hospitals, the second is to ensure health workers are trained for emergencies - and protected when they happen.

It calls for hospital buildings to be "resilient" and governments to have emergency plans - and to adopt policies for safe hospitals.

It says, finally, that equipment, medicine and supplies must be well-protected against disaster.

WHO says that disaster-prone countries such as Bangladesh, Japan, Pakistan and Peru have invested in disaster proof facilities.

Dr Eric Laroche, who runs the WHO's health action for crises cluster, said: "The most expensive health facility is the one that fails, both in human and financial terms.

"We know we can do more to prevent our hospitals and clinics falling victim to emergencies. The time has come for action."

Tags: A&E | Asia | World Health

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