Santiago, Chile, 2 April 2014 (PAHO.WHO) — Chile and Peru's health services are on alert following the 8.2-magnitude earthquake that struck both countries on April 1. The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is in contact with health officials from both countries to provide any health cooperation that may be needed.

According to Chilean authorities, at least six people died as a result of the quake and some 900,000 were evacuated following a tsunami alert, which was lifted on April 2. In Peru, nine people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. PAHO/WHO activated its Emergency Operations Center and is monitoring the situation.

Chile's 2010 earthquake and PAHO/WHO response

In February 2010, an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile, affecting six regions that are home to 80 percent of the country's population. The quake and ensuing tsunami claimed more than 500 lives, affected some 2 million people, and caused an estimated US$30 billion in damages (17 percent of Chile's GDP). In the health sector, 79 hospitals were affected (60 percent of the total), of which 54 required repairs and 17 were left unable to function. Chile's government estimated the costs of reconstructing the health sector at US$180 million.

Immediately following that quake, PAHO/WHO collaborated closely and actively with Chilean authorities and other UN agencies as part of the UN Country Team. The organization mobilized international experts in disasters, hospital infrastructure, environmental health, mental health and mass communication to bolster Chile's response. PAHO/WHO also coordinated donations of 175,000 doses of hepatitis A vaccine and 5,000 doses of pneumococcal vaccine, the purchase of a mobile vaccination center and US$1.5 million worth of biomedical equipment and electric generators, and the delivery of 30,000 guides on disease prevention in post-disaster settings.

The organization supported the development and implementation of a comprehensive environmental health plan after the earthquake, which included measures for safe drinking water, waste management, vector control, food safety, and hygiene. PAHO/WHO also helped implement a mental health action plan and helped Chile's National Disabilities Service develop a strategy and manual on post-disaster care for people with disabilities.

In addition, PAHO/WHO mobilized more than US$2.8 million from the European Commission (through ECHO), Canada (through CIDA), CERF, and the Government of Japan to support projects to reconstruct and strengthen the health network and reduce the risk of public health problems.