New 3 million CAD grant will strengthen health sector's disaster and emergency preparedness and increase resilience to climate change

Bridgetown, Barbados, 29 August 2016 (PAHO/WHO) - The Government of Canada announced a grant of 3 million Canadian dollars (CAD) to help the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and its Member States in the Caribbean reduce the health consequences of emergencies and disasters by improving preparedness and making the health sector more resilient to climate change.

The new funds, from Global Affairs Canada's Caribbean Regional Program, will support the health sector components of the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Program over the next four years (2016-2020) in Member and Associate States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The Caribbean islands are especially vulnerable to the impact of hurricanes, floods, seismic events and other natural hazards as a result of their geography, small size, limited resources, and dense populations. The islands are also disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly rising sea levels, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion as well as possible intensification of severe weather events.

This vulnerability has special implications for the health sector, whose facilities and staff are themselves vulnerable to disasters and emergencies while also bearing the responsibility of providing essential health services during and after emergencies. Most hospitals in the Caribbean score between 14% and 77% on PAHO's Hospital Safety Index, indicating that patients and hospital staff are at risk during disasters and that these facilities may not be able to continue functioning fully during such events.

The new initiative will build capacity in the Caribbean health sector to manage and reduce deaths, injuries and illness following disasters through training in disaster risk reduction and management for at least 1,000 emergency workers and through the creation of a virtual emergency coordination platform for the health sector throughout the subregion.

To improve the safety and environmental performance of healthcare facilities, technical support will be provided on energy efficiency and safety improvements for healthcare facilities, including rainwater capture systems; reinforcement or replacement of roofs, windows and doors; and installation of essential emergency equipment.

In addition, the initiative will produce technical information and publications that are adapted to the Caribbean context and sensitive to gender-related concerns. Experience has shown that natural disasters tend to have a greater impact on women and female-headed households, which have less financial security and less insurance coverage than male-households but heavier burdens of family care and greater dependence on neighbors for emergency assistance.

The initiative is in line with priorities identified by regional health disaster coordinators as well as CARICOM ministers of health. It builds on the success of the Disaster Risk Reduction in the Health Sector of CARICOM Member States 2008-2013 project, which also was supported by the Government of Canada, and is part of a longstanding partnership between Canada and PAHO to promote disaster preparedness, mitigation and response in both Latin America and the Caribbean.