Various natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, earthquakes and tsunami have affected health systems in the Pacific countries. Many of the Pacific countries lack the capacity in public health emergency management, therefore it is vital for the World Health Organization to be prepared to respond to the health needs created during humanitarian emergencies and crises, and to support health actions for the transition and recovery phases following conflicts and disasters.
As part of both the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the current Pacific Plan, Pacific island governments have committed to strengthening their respective national frameworks for more effective disaster management and to augment their capacity to prepare for and respond to emergency situations. The Mauritius Strategy for Small Island developing states underscores that Pacific island countries are located in one of the most vulnerable regions of the world in terms of the intensity and frequency of natural and environmental disasters, and face disproportionately high economic, social and environmental consequences when such emergencies occur.
Communities and national authorities play the central role through the entire spectrum of disaster risk management: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation and recovery. There is no substitute for national ownership and active leadership with strong participation by all stakeholders. External support should focus on strengthening national preparedness and response capacity for emergencies.
The Hyogo Framework for Action identified the following gaps and challenges in ongoing efforts to build national emergency preparedness and response capacity:
- Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and a local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation.
- Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning.
- Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.
- Reduce the underlying risk factors.
- Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.
Given the vulnerabilities of most Pacific Island Countries, support is needed, as a matter of priority, in executing substantive programmes and relevant institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Framework for Action 2006-2015 (based on the Hyogo Framework for Action). The central importance of information management to prepare for emergencies and to scope, track and evaluate emergency response is universally recognized.