Disaster Response

For more information, visit the Disasters and Humanitarian Assistance Page of the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Area of the Pan American Health Organization.

   Technical Documents


Technical Documents

2008 Hurricane Season
In August 2008, Hurricane Gustav affected the Caribbean and the U.S., leaving widespread damage in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica.(2/Sep/2008)
In English       HTML(26.88k)  

Emergency Operations Center
The Pan American Health Organization's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) functions as a centralized location through which organizational coordination and control of health-related response activities by PAHO’s Disaster Task Force and the Epidemic Alert and Response Task Force during emergencies and disasters can be accomplished.(8/Feb/2008)
In English       HTML(7.75k)  
en español     HTML(8.59k)  

Experiencias replicables en gestión sanitaria local ante desastres en los países andinos
Esta publicación documenta algunas experiencias de instituciones nacionales, organismos internacionales, y ONG de Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú y Venezuela, posibilitando el intercambio de conocimientos, lecciones aprendidas, herramientas prácticas, modelos, procesos, metodologías, sobre gestión del riesgo con los ejes temáticos de salud, agua y saneamiento, que puedan ser replicados--con las modificaciones y ajustes necesarios--en otras comunidades de los países andinos.(21/Sep/2007)
en español     HTML(4.04k)  

Guía para la vigilancia y control de la calidad del agua en situaciones de emergencia y desastre
Esta publicación presenta las principales acciones para el monitoreo de la calidad del agua para consumo humano durante situaciones de emergencia y desastre, considerando las necesidades inmediatamente posteriores al evento adverso hasta la rehabilitación de los servicios, con el fin de garantizar agua segura a la población afectada.(19/Sep/2007)
en español     HTML(3.81k)  

Hurricane Felix
Hurricane Felix strikes Nicaragua and Honduras. (September 2007)(5/Sep/2007)
In English       HTML(13.28k)  
en español     HTML(16.58k)  

Hurricane Dean
Hurricane Dean raced across the eastern Caribbean, a category 3 storm, ripping roofs off homes, downing trees and power lines but fortunately not causing widespread casualties. PAHO/WHO reports from Dominica, Saint Lucia and Martinique point to some damage to hospitals, particularly the Victoria Hospital, Saint Lucia’s main public hospital, located in the capital Castries with a capacity of 160 beds and the Princess Margaret Hospital (capacity 227 beds)which is the only hospital in Dominica. Hurricane Dean could strengthen to Category 4 by the time it reaches Jamaica and later Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.(17/Aug/2007)
In English       HTML(47.25k)  

Mass Fatality Plan Checklist for Ministries of Health and National Disaster Offices
The Pan American Health Organization has developed a checklist that contains the essential elements that should be addressed by Ministries of Health and Disaster Management Offices as they develop a mass fatality plan. It is important that countries exercise their plans on a regular basis to evaluate organization’s capability to execute one or more portions of the plan and to promote preparedness.(22/Mar/2007)
In English       HTML(34.52k)  

Nicaragua - Methanol Poisoning
A massive poisoning outbreak by ingestion of home distilled "guaro" contaminated by Methanol were detected on 2 September in the departments of León and of Chinandega, Nicaragua. Subsequently it extended to several wards of the same city and cases have also been reported in other municipalities. The Laboratory of Forensic Medicine of Managua confirmed the presence of Methanol in 23 samples of hospitalized patients.(10/Sep/2006)
In English       HTML(18.52k)  
en español     HTML(38.78k)  

Floods in Suriname - May 2006
Heavy rains in South-East Suriname have caused flooding in more than 175 villages, affecting approximately 24,000 people. The situation has prompted the President to declare an emergency situation. Many thousands have been displaced.(10/May/2006)
In English       HTML(29.59k)  

Management of Dead Bodies after Disasters: A Manual for First Responders
This Field Manual for First Responders presents simple recommendations for non-specialists to manage the recovery, basic identification, storage and disposal of dead bodies following disasters. It also makes suggestions about providing support to family members and communicating with the public and the media.(27/Mar/2006)
In English       HTML(6.19k)  
en español     HTML(6.42k)  

Floods in Bolivia - February 2006
Torrential rains almost in all of the territory of Bolivia have caused overflowing of important rivers, affecting La Paz and Trinidad cities and several rural communities across the country. Heavy rains triggered landslides and road obstructions causing the isolation of some rural communities. The National Meteorological Service has informed that rain will continue over the next weeks. The government has declared a national emergency and authorities are making an appeal for international assistance.(9/Feb/2006)
In English       WORDL(110.08k)  
en español     HTML(11.91k)  

Floods in Central America and Mexico - October 2005
Rains brought on by Hurricane Stan have produced serious flooding and landslides in communities along the Atlantic coast of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.(6/Oct/2005)
In English       HTML(15.17k)  
en español     HTML(15.19k)  

Workshop on management of dead bodies in disaster situations
A small group of experts met in Lima, Peru at a workshop on Management of Dead Bodies in Disaster Situations, co-organized by PAHO's Area on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief and the Assistance Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Selected experts from key organizations shared their experience and insights in this global effort to improve not only the adequate management of human remains after large disasters but primarily to provide better humanitarian assistance to survivors. (13/May/2005)
In English       HTML(14.66k)  

Guía de Preparativos de Salud Frente a Erupciones Volcánicas
La nueva Guía de Preparativos de Salud Frente a Erupciones Volcánicas brinda material de apoyo para la preparación de planes de contingencia del sector de la salud para enfrentarse a estas emergencias. Consta de cinco módulos e incluye un CD con presentaciones en PowerPoint para cada módulo, una descripción de la situación de los volcanes en Ecuador y Venezuela y publicaciones de referencia.(11/May/2005)
en español     HTML(10.56k)  

Floods in Guyana
Guyana has been experiencing an excessive amount of rainfall. By mid-January, 27 inches of rain had fallen. This has caused considerable flooding along the coastal regions which are the most densely populated areas of Guyana. It is estimated that more than 70,000 persons in the Georgetown area are seriously affected by the floods. Along the coastal regions, the number is much higher. The Government of Guyana has several regions of the country as disaster areas.(25/Jan/2005)
In English       HTML(49.96k)  

CD45.R8: Disaster Preparedness and Response
This report from the PAHO Directing Council lays forth the Organization's mandate for emergency and disaster preparedness and response in hospitals, clinics, and primary-care facilities in the Americas.(1/Oct/2004)
In English       CD45.R8  
en español     CD45.R8  
en Français    CD45.R8  
em Português CD45.R8  

Tropical Storm Jeanne
Jeanne is the tenth storm of the 2004 hurricane season. It has affected Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.(17/Sep/2004)
In English       HTML(17.25k)  
en español     HTML(9.24k)  

Fire Tragedy in Paraguay
On Sunday, August 1, 2004, a fire broke out in a supermarket in Asunción, Paraguay when the store was full of weekend customers. Official sources from the Justice Department and the Ministry of Health report that 378 people died at the scene due to inhalation of toxic gases and burns.There were also about 300 injured, that are being treated at the main hospitals in Asunción. Most of them are suffering from smoke inhalation and burns of different degrees.(9/Aug/2004)
In English       HTML(6.84k)  
en español     Oficina de Desastres para Sudamérica  

Torrential rains and flooding in the Dominican Republic
Torrential rains began lashing the Dominican Republic last Friday, May 21, resulting in severe flooding in the northwest and north of the country and in the capital, Santo Domingo. The PAHO/WHO Office in Santo Domingo is assessing the damage and identifying the immediate needs of the affected population.(25/May/2004)
In English       HTML(11.41k)  
en español     HTML(15.28k)  

Frente frio afecta a Honduras
Un frente frio ha estado afectando a Honduras en el mes de febrero de 2004. Como consecuencia se han producido lluvias severas que han causado inundaciones en diferentes partes del país.(23/Feb/2004)
en español     HTML(9.98k)  

Reaching a Regional Consensus for Facing Disaster Situations
PAHO is in the final phase of the developement of the manual "Management of Cadavers in Disaster Situations" with the help of international experts. To aid in this project, the World Bank organized a teleconference with participants from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. The central topic of the dialogue was the analysis by each country of some chapters of the manual.(15/Dec/2003)
In English       HTML(3.77k)  
en español     HTML(4.3k)  

PAHO-WHO Guidelines for the Use of Foreign Field Hospitals in the Aftermath of Sudden-Impact Disasters
In July 2003, the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization sponsored a workshop in El Salvador called "Hospitals in Disasters--Handle with Care" to discuss--among other subjects--the pros and cons of using foreign field hospitals in the aftermath of natural disasters. These guidelines are the result of that workshop.(23/Oct/2003)
In English       HTML(2.83k)  
en español     HTML(3.48k)  

Earthquake in the Dominican Republic
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake occurred in the Dominican Republic on Monday, 22 September. The quake struck 10 miles south Puerto Plata (pop 89,000) and 95 miles north northwest of the capital Santo Domingo.(22/Sep/2003)
In English       HTML(1.85k)  
en español     HTML(2.66k)  

Volcanic Eruption in Montserrat
The government of Montserrat declared the island an emergency zone after the Soufriere Hills volcano started erupting on Juy 12, 2003. Conditions have been exacerbated by heavy rains. Although there have not been serious injuries, the government has requesed the donation of dust masks for the population.(16/Jul/2003)
In English       HTML(4.38k)  

Donations in-kind for the Iraq Crisis: Guidance to Donors
The United Nations has received many offers of in-kind humanitarian assistance—donations of goods or personnel—for Iraq and requests for advice on how aid might best be provided. View the guidelines prepared for potential donors, including a list of key agency contacts for emergency in-kind contributions. Specific guidelines on field hospitals and drug donations are also included.(12/May/2003)
In English       HTML(5.85k)  

Protection of Mental Health in Disasters and Emergency Situations
The objective of this publication is to offer practical planning guidelines to act in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, and it does not include treatment of psychosocial problems that arise in the medium- and long-term. It is directed toward community efforts and promotes coordination between the multiple agencies that work in the mental health field, frequently with different points of view. In Spanish only.(10/Oct/2002)
en español     HTML(4.72k)  

Epidemiological surveillance in disaster situations: Guide for the local level
This guide provides an overview of local-level needs with regard to health information during emergency and disaster situations. It is a practical, simple, flexible tool that is appropriate for use throughout the Americas, if each country's characteristics and special features are taken into account. It has been produced within the framework of a multi-country project in Central America to reduce vulnerability to disasters in areas affected by Hurricane Mitch. In Spanish only.(10/Oct/2002)
en español     HTML(4.2k)  

Extreme Cold Affected Several South American Countries
A cold front affected Argentina, Chile, Perú and Bolivia and turned critical, especially in Potosi, Bolivia. Eight deaths have been attributed to the extreme cold. Approximately 2,500 families have been affected by this meteorological event. The incidence of respiratory illnesses have increased.(8/Jul/2002)
In English       HTML(1.86k)  
en español     HTML(3.24k)  

Volcanoes: Protecting the Public Health
A short technical guide is now available to accompany the new video on volcanoes "Health Planning for Volcanic Crisis". Both the video, and now the guide, focus on the principal health hazards of volcanic eruptions, together with the basic planning measures the health sector can and should take to reduce potential effects. The guide is intended to serve as reference material that can be consulted before, during or after viewing the program. The text of the guide has been modified and adapted from the original video script. (9/Apr/2002)
In English       HTML(1.66k)  
en español     HTML(1.88k)  

Emergencies and Disasters in Drinking Water Supply and Sewerage Systems: Guidelines for Effective Response
PAHO and the Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (AIDIS) joined forces in publishing these practical guidelines on developing emergency and disaster plans for drinking water and sewerage systems. It updates other PAHO documents on this topic, and is an important companion text to Natural Disaster Mitigation in Drinking Water and Sewerage Systems: Guidelines for Vulnerability Analysis, published by PAHO in 1998. The book was written for managers, planners and designers as well as operations and maintenance personnel working with water and sanitation systems.(13/Nov/2001)
In English       HTML(3.96k)  
en español     HTML(4.26k)  

Aprendiendo a vivir con el volcán, protegemos nuestra salud (only in Spanish)
In a simple and easy-to-understand format, this pamphlet offers guidance on mitigating the effects of volcanic eruption on potable water and sewerage systems. It emphasizes the importance of protecting against ashfall and ensuring a safe water supply by protecing water sources and treatment plants. Basic guidelines to disinfect water are also included. (only in Spanish)(9/Apr/2001)
In English       only in Spanish  
en español     PDF(346.87k)  

Cooperative Agreement to the Pan American Health Organization to initiate the Post Hurricane Reconstruction of the Public Healthcare System in Central America
The following project proposal has been prepared in response to the United States Department of Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Program Announcement 00021: Post Hurricane Reconstruction of the Public Health-Care System in Central America and the Caribbean. The proposal is aimed at providing assistance to rebuild or strengthen national and subregional health systems which will facilitate prevention and control of morbidity and mortality from communicable diseases. (1/Oct/2000)
In English       WORDL(253.95k)  

Hurricane Keith Home Page
On 6 October, 2000: Hurricane Keith brought disaster and destruction to Belize. The excessive wind, torrential rains and resulting floods grievously affected the central and northern regions of Belize and about two thirds of the agricultural and fisheries sectors. The economic value of the loss or damage has been estimated at US$105.8 million for agriculture and US$ 6.0 for fisheries. (10/Jun/2000)
In English       HTML(5.69k)  

Drains & You: A Manual for Drainage Maintenance Workers
This manual is useful not only for drainage workers engaged in cleaning and repairing secondary drains, working for ministries and local governments, but also for the general public in making them aware of the role drains play in public health and safety. In the latter sense, it serves as a social-communication tool to raise community awareness of the general public of domestic-sanitation issues and their effect on public health. This page offers the entire manual for field use, with chapters downloadable in PDF.(30/Mar/2000)
In English       HTML(4.17k)  

Disaster in Venezuela
In December 13-14 1999, torrential rainfall produced serious flooding and mudslides that began on and affected ten states in the northern part of Venezuela, including its capital, Caracas. National authorities estimate that more than 20,000 people were killed and more than 200,000 have been affected. More than 4,000 persons were transferred to temporary shelters in La Guaira, Caracas, Maracay and Valencia. (29/Dec/1999)
In English       HTML(1.73k)  
en español     HTML(1.85k)  

Earthquake in Mexico
The earthquake in Mexico in September 30 1999 caused 18 deaths nationwide. The damages to the hospital infrastructure were confined to the Juquila Hospital, in the State of Oaxaca, where 12 beds were lost and in the General Hospital in the City of Oaxaca, which suffered only superficial cracks and continue to function normally.(30/Sep/1999)
In English       HTML(4.48k)  
en español     HTML(5.77k)  

Conclusions and Recommendations of the Meeting on Evaluation of Preparedness and Response to Hurricanes Georges and Mitch, 1999
More than 400 professionals from 48 countries met at this meeting to identify lessons learned with regard to the preparedness for and response to two of the most devastating hurricanes of the last decades: Georges and Mitch.(1/Apr/1999)
In English       HTML(4.97k)  
en español     HTML(4.19k)  

Hurricane Mitch
In October, 1998 Hurricane Mitch brought disaster and destruction that will be remembered as the most deadly hurricane to strike the Western Hemisphere in the last two centuries. Mitch struck Central America with such viciousness that it was nearly a week before the magnitude of the disaster began to reach the outside world. The death toll currently is reported as 11,000 with thousands of others missing. More than three million people were either homeless or severely affected.(28/Oct/1998)
In English       HTML(5.64k)  
en español     HTML(5.96k)  

El Niño Phenomenon
This page explains El Niño. The term "El Niño" is used for these exceptionally strong intervals of warm water currents that cause heavy rains and prolonged droughts. Effects on health have been highly variable in the different countries. But health and other sectors are currently much better prepared in most countries than before. (14/Jun/1998)
In English       HTML(12.5k)  
en español     HTML(15.65k)