WORLD HEALTH DAY
Geneva is home to many of the world’s international humanitarian organizations. This puts many of our counterparts in the United Nations and other agencies, along with WHO colleagues from various technical areas, on the frontlines of disaster response.
It also takes them to parts of the world where
emergencies are more commonplace than here
in Switzerland. Every year, hurricanes sweep
the Caribbean islands, and countries such as
Pakistan, China, Mexico and Japan must be always
on the alert for the disturbing rumble of
earthquakes. In many countries, armed conflict
threatens the health of both civilians and health
workers and disrupts services.
The tragedy of a major emergency or disaster is compounded when health facilities fail. People count on hospitals and health facilities to respond, swiftly and efficiently, as the lifeline for survival and an integral part of the community support system. This is why this year’s World Health Day focuses on saving lives by making hospitals safe in emergencies. World Health Day celebrates the founding of WHO in 1948, and is an annual event to focus world attention on a key health issue. This year’s theme reminds us all to think and plan for emergencies. It also alerts hospital authorities and government leaders to the fact that a relatively small investment - such as retro-fitting a hospital or securing equipment to keep it stable in an earthquake - can save lives when disaster strikes. For example, Costa Rican hospitals retro-fitted before the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in 1990 withstood the shock in excellent condition, protecting the health of patients and health workers, and ensuring that essential health services could continue.
This years World Health Day will be launched in Beijing as China recovers from a massive earthquake in Sichuan Province which last year killed more than 87,000 people and destroyed or damaged over 11,000 hospitals and clinics. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, will be joined by Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director WPRO, CHEN Zhu, Minister of Health China and international film star Jet Li who is WHO’s new Goodwill Ambassador.
One of the calls to action of this year’s WHD is for all countries to provide training for health workers for emergencies including for first response. As part of this year’s celebrations at headquarters, first aid demonstrations will be amongst the many taking place in the foyer.