WHO adopts Delhi declaration to boost disaster preparedness
Since it was set up in 2008, SEARHEF has disbursed US$ 6.07 million in all as financial support for 39 emergencies in nine countries. On each occasion, relief has been sent within 24 hours of the catastrophe.Updated: Sep 05, 2019 00:24 IST
The Delhi Declaration on Emergency Preparedness to strengthen and operationalise crossborder capacities for disaster reduction and response was unanimously adopted at the 72nd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South East Asia, a region vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and floods, as well as emerging diseases and outbreaks.
The Delhi Declaration builds on the disaster preparedness and response benchmarks set by South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund (SEARHEF) which was set up following the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed at least 200,000 people and devastated six countries in the region in 2004.
Since it was set up in 2008, SEARHEF has disbursed US$ 6.07 million in all as financial support for 39 emergencies in nine countries. On each occasion, relief has been sent within 24 hours of the catastrophe.
The key initiatives under Delhi Declaration are identifying risks by mapping and assessing vulnerabilities, evidence-based planning, implementing measures for disaster risk reduction; and preparing and operationalising readiness.
“Under the declaration, the governments in this region will implement, monitor, test and adequately fund national action plans on disaster risk management, emergency preparedness and response. It will also bridge the gap between diverse sectors, including human, animal and environment, under the One Health approach for the prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging diseases,” said India’s health and family welfare minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, speaking to Hindustan Times.
At the meeting, the ministers of health and heads of delegations of the 11 countries shared their experiences and learnings from health emergencies that have hit the region over the past decade.
“The declaration is about strengthening preparedness to respond to health emergencies by investing in health resilient infrastructure and workforce, understanding risks and vulnerabilities better, rolling out appropriate preparedness and response initiatives and implementing robust national emergency preparedness plans at all levels,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Investing in human resources and resilient health systems, strengthening international health regulation to prevent crossborder spread of infectious diseases, setting up national emergency medicine and rapid response teams, and building regional cooperation will reduce vulnerability to human and natural disasters in the region, which is home to one-fourth of the global population.
“Despite improved capacities and responses to health emergencies, WHO South-East Asia continues to be one of the most vulnerable regions at risk of emerging and re-emerging diseases, diseases associated with climate change and rapid, unplanned urbanisation, and natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The stronger the capacities in our own countries, the stronger will be the region and stronger will be the world,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, who began her second term as WHO SEARO regional director in February this year.
She asked for sustained efforts to strengthen emergency preparedness and response; accelerated investments to address critical gaps at national and sub-national levels; and continuous innovation to improve preparedness and response systems.