2. Forging strong partnerships and alliances: key actors

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The topic of disaster management has gained an increasingly important place on the health agenda of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and in many other parts of the world. However, the increasing number of actors involved, the improved capacity that now exists in many countries and regions and the globalized environment in which we operate is quickly changing how we deal with risk reduction, preparedness and even response.

There is now growing recognition that disaster risk reduction is a development concern and should not be seen only in the context of a humanitarian response to an emergency. To have truly sustained impact at scale, it is important to integrate the elements of disaster risk reduction that address health concerns across the day-to-day activities of both health agencies and those of partners.

There are several ways to mainstream disaster risk reduction into health activities and vice versa. One way is to improve internal and external communication strategies and promote common language and clear concepts that emphasize that disaster risk reduction is primarily a development concern. Another is to bring the disaster risk reduction agenda to the highest levels of the Public Health Forum by developing technical and operational capacities to support the health sector of countries in crisis. Equally important is to use technical expertise and leverage to influence the thinking of key partners, both ministries of health and others at national and regional level, to better address risk reduction and to ensure that risk reduction principles and activities form part of and support health initiatives such as primary health care, patient safety, workers’ health and other efforts that contribute to the Millenium Development Goals (MGDs). Visit the MDGs site for additional information.

The activities of many international actors have a short- and medium term impact on public health, before, during and in the aftermath of disasters. For many years, the health sector focused on key government partners, most notably the ministries of health. While this strategy must undoubtedly continue, it is also necessary to expand partnerships and to include a broader range of actors both within and outside the sector, who are critical for achieving this strategic objective.

The following section reviews the key partners/actors involved in emergency preparedness, risk reduction and humanitarian assistance. Each partner’s mandate guides its involvement in these processes. Therefore, it is important for the health sector to become well acquainted with the strengths and limitations of each partner so as to best coordinate with them individually and as a group.