Emergency preparedness and response in healthcare facilities: reducing disaster risk

  • 2022•12•20     Bonn, Germany

    © Ibrahim Al-Mashraqi, UNICEF

    Ahead of the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness on 27 December, researchers of the United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and the Université Laval reviewed the emergency preparedness and response in health care facilities worldwide with a focus on water supply and wastewater management.

    The research focused on the crucial and cascading impacts of disruptions of one critical infrastructure (water supply) to another (healthcare). The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 outlines this in Target D to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks.

    Disruptions of water and sanitation in hospitals are highly disadvantageous in attempting to deliver healthcare during and after an emergency situation, such as a flood or an earthquake, while battling an epidemic or even pandemic disease as is currently the case with COVID_19.

    Results indicate that, in general, there is a higher focus on water supply than on wastewater management in emergency preparedness and response. In addition, plans for recovery after a disaster strikes were mainly lacking, researchers found.

    Lead author Sophie van der Heijden of UNU-EHS explains: “Many of the reviewed studies mention the importance of reconstruction and restoration phases. However, the focus mainly lies on technical aspects of these phases, whereas organizational ones are largely absent. Despite their key role for preparedness and response, citizens’ and patients’ emergency preparedness and response in health care facilities perspectives are hugely underrepresented. This aligns with the larger context, as awareness-raising and stakeholder cooperation in general is addressed comparatively little.”

    The review concludes that combining organizational and technical aspects, and intersecting theory and practice will be necessary to address existing gaps.

    “Improving preparedness and response is key to maintaining public health and providing primary care. All involved actors, including health care facilities, water suppliers and governmental authorities, must work together to ensure that basic water, sanitation and hygiene services can be provided and can rapidly recover in the event of an emergency. Our findings will hopefully help to counter growing risks and increase resilience of services we all depend on” says Simone Sandholz, Head of the Urban Futures and Sustainability Transformation (FAST) section at UNU-EHS.

    The full article is available here.