31 March 2009

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies"

Message on World Health Day, 7 April 2009

VIENNA, 7 April (UN Information Service) - When disaster strikes, well-prepared, functioning medical services are a priority. Floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters can take a terrible toll on human life. So, too, can infectious disease outbreaks and man-made disasters, such as chemical spills or radiation accidents. Hospitals, clinics and other health facilities must react swiftly and efficiently. They must also provide safe havens, and not become disaster zones themselves.

When a hospital collapses in an earthquake, burying patients and staff, the human cost multiplies. When an infectious disease spreads because a hospital is poorly ventilated or constructed, or because health care workers lack adequate training, we are failing people at their most vulnerable.

To focus attention on these simple but important principles, World Health Day for 2009 has adopted the campaign slogan: "Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies". It is a global call to action for countries to work to prepare their health systems for emergencies.

Collaboration between different United Nations entities and other international actors is crucial to helping countries to achieve this goal. The World Disaster Reduction Campaign for 2008-2009 has pooled the efforts of the World Health Organization, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the World Bank towards making health facilities more able to stand up to cyclones, earthquakes and other hazards.

We must protect public health by designing and building health care facilities that are safe from natural disasters. We must also ensure they are not targeted during conflicts. Health care workers must be trained to work safely in emergencies, so they can save lives, rather than becoming victims themselves. And we must guarantee the continuity of the health services that a community relies on, such as immunizations, dialysis and the delivery of babies, once the immediate emergency has passed.

We cannot prevent all disasters. But we can work together to ensure that when they occur, hospitals and other health facilities are ready and able to save lives.


For further information on World Health Day 2009, please visit:

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