Disasters Preparedness – Health Services:

Are we prepared to manage health matters during disasters? The short and crisp answers from most of us will be a ‘No’. It is a known fact that we aren’t prepared to take on or cope with any sort of disaster and aren’t prepared for managing crisis situation after a disaster, especially health and sanitation issues. We have witnessed the mayhem caused by floods in the recent past, and disasters like these have time and again exposed the failures of our government policies. We are deceived as we wait for help during a disaster. We are like the Ostrich, which on seeing a hunter, hides its head in the sand and believes that it is safe while it exposes its mammoth body outside, making itself an easy prey for the hunter. The recent flood and flu situations are the best examples to be sited that would let us know where we stand in terms of managing disaster and the health issues arising there after.

Other developing countries, which are planning ahead of time, are preparing for the worst, keeping in mind their previous experiences. They are keen at reducing the response time, integrating the resources, and enhancing efficiency by performing mock drills and dry runs. They have managed to achieve excellent emergency response time and make shift emergency response facilities, thereby reducing the number of casualties in an event of disaster. Hospitals and emergency response units are ready 24×7 and connected to each other.

Every year scores of people die needlessly on the roads, streets, and even in the hospitals that lack adequate resources. Deaths that could have been prevented or lives could that have been saved, if we had adequate infrastructure, especially in the health sector. We don’t have a proper emergency response team or disaster management action plan that would guide as in an event of unprecedented accident or disaster. There is no monitoring body or structure that would take stock of such issues and take necessary action in time.

The authorities always maintain that there aren’t sufficient funds to provide the required infrastructure, while the irony is that every time there is a disaster or mishap, the authorities promise huge sums of money to the kin of the victims. Now where does this money come from? Is this other way to escape reality?

As per a World Bank report, huge health losses from road traffic injuries in low and middle-income countries are projected over the coming decades. In 2002 health losses from road traffic deaths and injuries were ranked as higher than those from malaria and tuberculosis (at 8th, 9th and 10th respectively) and they are projected to become an even bigger problem by 2030 (where they are ranked 7th, 15th and 10th respectively).

If these were the projection of lost lives, what would be the figures if we add up the total toll of lives lost in disasters, natural calamities and due to lack of poor health infrastructure and timely care?

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