How can disaster risk reduction help save lives?

Online Q&A
October 2012

Q: How can disaster risk reduction help save lives?

A: Emergencies can happen in any country, at any time. When disaster strikes, it can seriously disrupt the functioning of a community and people will depend on help from the outside. But a lot can be done to prevent and reduce the effects of disasters as well as to strengthen the response of communities at risk.

Countries with well-developed health systems and a well-trained, well-equipped health workforce in communities are much better prepared for disasters. When a community is well-prepared, many lives can be saved in the first hours after an emergency before external help arrives. The people in the community know local risks and their own needs best.

To reduce future risks and human and material losses, WHO helps countries build resilience in health systems by strengthening emergency risk management, an approach which includes measures ranging from prevention to preparedness to response and recovery. Emergency risk management actions include:

  • creating supportive national policies, strategies and allocating resources to manage risks;
  • improving access to quality primary health care before disaster strikes, as well as in response and recovery;
  • training and equipping the health workforce and including them in the planning for all types of emergencies;
  • identifying hazards, vulnerabilities, and capacities to assess risks;
  • promoting risk awareness of emergencies and providing health education (e.g. sanitation and hygiene);
  • providing early warning of emergencies to health providers and communities; and
  • protecting health facilities from hazards and preparing for emergency health response.