This is the cover page of the Hospitals Safe from Disasters information kit.

WHO, Allies Stress Safety of Hospitals Themselves

Tsunamis and earthquakes in Asia in the past three weeks underscore the need to ensure hospitals are protected against natural disasters, the agencies said Wednesday as they marked International Day for Disaster Reduction 2009.

Allied international authorities yesterday cited an urgent need to ensure hospitals around the world are protected against natural disasters. Marking International Day for Disaster Reduction 2009, the World Health Organization cited the recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Asia and Pacific islands as evidence of the "large-scale human suffering [that] is exacerbated when the very services that are most needed to save lives - hospitals, clinics and other health facilities - are counted among the casualties." From London to South Africa, Nepal, and Panama, events were held in conjunction with the day.  

The same theme of safeguarding hospitals was used for the 2008-09 World Disaster Reduction campaign that ended yesterday. The two-year campaign was a joint initiative of WHO, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), and the World Bank trying to ensure access to functioning health facilities during and after natural hazards. Available in several languages at the Safe Hospitals Web site is the Hospitals Safe from Disasters information kit.

"Since the beginning of the campaign, much has been achieved to make hospitals safer, but more investments are still needed to improve the functionality of hospitals when disasters occur," said Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

According to a recent WHO survey, only half of all countries' heath sectors have a budget allocation for risk reduction and emergency preparedness. And there are at least 90,000 hospitals and other health facilities in the 49 least-developed countries of the world, with many of them vulnerable to disasters, according to WHO.

Mexico has applied a hospital safety index to more than 1,000 of its high-risk facilities, and the same index has been applied to many facilities in Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Oman, Sudan, and Tajikistan. Dubai will assess all of its hospitals by the end of 2011.

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