Disaster response register unveiled to boost lifesaving effort

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French rescuers amid the devastation of the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Photo: UN/Marco Dormino

The world's first global register for disaster response teams was unveiled on Wednesday by UN health experts who say a radical new approach to disaster relief is needed to save more lives.

Run by the World Health Organization (WHO), the aim of the database is to provide governments affected by large-scale emergencies with the most appropriate level of help from qualified foreign medical teams.

WHO says it wants to avoid the chaos caused by hundreds of well-intentioned volunteer teams arriving in crisis-hit countries where they risk being more of a burden than a help.

Daniel Johnson has more.

When a level seven earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, hundreds of volunteers rushed to the devastated island to help.

The problem was, amid the chaos, it was almost impossible to co-ordinate their efforts early on.

Now, in a radical new approach, World Health Organization want all foreign emergency teams to register online so alerts can be better managed in future.

Here's Dr Ian Norton, who's behind the global database project:

"What it seeks to do is provide a quality assurance process and a predictable and safe response for the populations once they get hit by that tsunami, cyclone… or flood, and cholera, ebola or shigella, or whatever that outbreak might be…It is not appropriate for doctor or a nurse to jump on a plane with a backpack to the next emergency."

In the first year WHO expects 150 relief agencies to sign up, and as many as 400 more teams to put their names down in the coming years.

Under the new system only these pre-registered teams will be allowed into countries where help is needed.

The agency says the register will give poorer countries that are prone to natural disasters the confidence to spend money on everyday health problems – such as combating malaria – rather than investing huge sums on disaster relief teams which might not be needed for decades.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'13"




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