World Health Day: April 7, 2009
‘Save Lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies’
Each year the World Health Organizations celebrates World Health Day on April 7th.This day marks the birth of the WHO and draws attention to important issues regarding global health. The focus for 2009 is ‘Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies’. At any given time, countries across the world experience emergencies, whether these are conflict, civil or international, or natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes. These global events have incredible impacts on human health and put health services and facilities at great risk. In order to minimize the damage of emergencies, maintain important public health objectives and save the lives of civilians, health professionals need safe and adequately constructed and resourced facilities.
Obstetricians, gynaecologists, midwives and other women’s health professionals are an important resource in times of emergency. People do not stop having sex or giving birth during times of conflict and disaster. Unfortunately, during such events women’s health services are a common casualty. Without secure and resourced health centres the human toll of emergencies expands, further disadvantaging what are already precarious health systems. Wars are often waged on women’s bodies as well as on battlefields and rape as a weapon of war brings incredible health complications of which obstetricians and gynaecologists are essential in treating. Maternal mortality increases during times of emergency as less women are able to reach skilled birth attendants.
Keeping hospitals safe is a multileveled task that begins at construction. The WHO is encouraging health centres to evaluate the design and construction of health facilities and to create plans of action during times of conflict and other events such as fires and floods. Emergency preparedness can often go overlooked in understaffed and under resourced health settings. Additionally, advocating for the protection of hospitals and health workers during emergencies is work that can yield important understandings at national and international levels.