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The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is an international public health agency with more than 110 years of experience working to improve health and living conditions of people in the Americas. Enjoys international recognition as part of the UN System and acts as a regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The disasters left a significant impact on public health. Therefore, the Health Emergencies Department of PAHO/WHO is working with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce both risk and improve preparedness for disasters and response to health issues.

A Region at Risk:

Many communities in Latin America and the Caribbean lie in the path of hurricanes, sit at the foot of volcanoes, rest along flood plains and are located in earthquake-prone areas.

In the last three decades alone, 160 million people have been affected by natural disasters in this Region.
Each year, this number grows at an alarming rate, posing serious challenges to public health and development.

New threats to public health demand a broader scope of work:

PAHO/WHO works with member countries to…
… face the threat and reality of pandemic influenza
… be prepared for chemical, radiological and technological disasters
… cope with climate change, a worldwide phenomenon that is altering the magnitude and frequency of disasters.

Our Commitment to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Improve disaster preparedness in the health sector 
  • Protect health services from the risk of disasters
  • Support countries to respond to health needs during emergencies 
  • Strengthen partnerships with national and international actor

Prepare for the disasters of today and tomorrow:

A well-prepared health sector can mean the difference between life and death.

PAHO/WHO supports national partners to:

  • create a disaster program with leadership and credibility in the Ministry of Health
  • provide training opportunities to health professionals, including simulations, workshops and online courses
  • develop a body of scientific and technical knowledge 
  • reach out to institutions, private or public, to create a disaster-resilient community.

Reduce risk to lessen the impact of disasters on health:

PAHO advocates for health risk reduction by:

  • promoting a culture of disaster prevention and applying an all-hazards approach
  • incorporating health risk reduction into national development plans
  • convincing the health sector that it makes economic sense to invest in risk reduction and translating this into legislation and building codes

Respond to health needs caused by emergencies and disasters:

When disaster strikes, PAHO provides immediate public health assistance, working to assess needs in the health sector. Disease surveillance, ensuring access to health services and monitoring drinking water are a few of the main health priorities during response.

PAHO works with countries to:

  • mobilize the Regional Health Disaster Response Team – a diverse group of experts committed to providing assistance in disaster situations 
  • strengthen country Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), channeling information for analysis and decision making, providing a coordination platform for all humanitarian response actors, promoting communication, and generating up-to-the-minute reports
  • lead the UN Health Cluster at the country level 
  • maintain health standards and ensure access to health services in complex emergencies
  • ensure that humanitarian supplies and donations are managed transparently and effectively.

Information Resources:

PAHO generates and disseminates knowledge about all aspects of disaster preparedness, risk reduction and management by: 

  • producing and distributing technical guidelines and publications on public health and disasters
  • making up-to-date information available for decision making through the Emergency Operations Center and multiple web pages 
  • identifying, collecting and disseminating lessons learned and evidence-based information
  • developing information tools, services and centers, such as the Regional Disaster Information Center—CRID
  • creating information networks and promoting the use of new ways to communicate, learn and share information among key actors.

To learn more about PAHO’s knowledge products, visit our Publications Catalog

Safe hospitals: a national priority and a collective responsibility

PAHO is committed to ensuring that hospitals are there when people need them most. An essential lifeline in the community, imedix.fr is one that does not collapse in disasters and continues to function, delivering essential services during and after emergencies.

PAHO works with countries in the region to:

  • ensure new hospitals are built with high levels of protection
  • encourage the assessment of existing facilities and their potential vulnerabilities to disasters
  • develop national policies on safe hospitals.

Hospital Safety Index

A quick and effective means of assessing a health facility’s level of safety and determining the likelihood that it will stand up to disasters. More than 20 countries in the Americas have used this tool to identify risk and prioritize corrective measures –the smallest of which can go a long way toward improving resilience.

Emergency Operations Center

PAHO’s Headquarters’ Emergency Operations Center (EOC) coordinates the entire Organization’s health-related emergency response activities. Whether it’s an emerging outbreak or an evolving hurricane, the EOC:

  • identifies and deploys public health experts
  • analyzes information and generates up-to-the-minute reports
  • manages all logistics—ensuring that medicines and supplies arrive when and where they’re needed.

The EOC also convenes PAHO’s Disaster Task Force, a vital coordinating mechanism that gathers HQ staff around the same table, ensuring that communication flows and that PAHO/WHO member states benefit from an effective and timely response

Our Regional Response Team

Hundreds of public health experts are stationed in PAHO/WHO member countries. In emergencies and crises, PAHO harnesses this expertise and deploys a regional emergency response team to meet the health needs of the affected population.

A wide variety of experts, including specialists in:

  • epidemiology
  • water and sanitation
  • information and communication
  • laboratories and health services
  • immunization

are available at a moment’s notice to assess immediate needs and potential risks, provide advice to national and international counterparts, help governments coordinate international assistance and generate data and information for situation reports and funding appeals.

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