1. Organization of the health sector for response

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The responsibilities of the health sector in emergency response include:

  • Coordination and decision-making regarding all health-related matters.
  • Assessment of the health impact and surveillance and control of public health risks.
  • Rapid recovery and maintenance of the health care network to meet the urgent needs of the affected population.
  • Organization and support for intersectoral response operations.
  • Effective communications and information flow, making that make it possible to closely monitor the situation and facilitate decision making.
  • Organization and public education to support efforts to contain health hazards.
  • Logistics and equipment for response entities.


1.1. Sectoral coordination

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Coordination among sectors is critical for effective disaster response. This includes coordination among all institutions and organizations that provide health, drinking water, and sanitation services. In the health section, the health sector Emergency Operations Committee is one such vehicle for coordination.

1.1.2. Health Sector Emergency Operations Committee

Under the direction of the leading health authority in each country (health minister or secretary, regional director, etc.), the health sector Emergency Operations Committee is responsible for making decisions and prioritizing needs, establishing mechanisms for the support needed by other sectors and entities, and preparing an action plan to address the emergency, reduce impact, and forestall major health hazards in light of findings from damage assessments and health situation analyses.



1.2. Intersectoral coordination

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1.2.1. Emergency Operations Center (General EOC)

Coordination between sectors takes place at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is the national entity that includes staff from the various ministries and agencies involved in emergency response and to which the various sectors contribute reports, assessments, and requests when intersectoral support is required.

This coordinating structure is replicated on a smaller scale at the regional and local levels. It also interacts with other for operational management and control mechanisms, such as situation rooms, incident command posts, and sectoral Emergency Operations Centers such as the Health Sector Emergency Operations Committee.



1.3. Information management and communications in emergencies and disasters

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Although information during the first hours of a disaster may be abundant, it may be less than reliable. Therefore, the major challenge is to get clear information—from reliable sources that can be double checked—that reflects the situation on the ground and the priority needs of the affected population.

1.3.1. Damage assessment and needs analysis in health (health DANA)

Health authorities, along with the entities responsible for providing emergency assistance, should promote damage assessment and needs analysis (DANA) as a priority task. Below is a summary of the most relevant aspects of DANA. (The Inter-agency Standing Committee’s Multi-Cluster Initial Rapid Assessment is designed to identify strategic humanitarian priorities during the first weeks following an emergency).



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  1. Continuation of 1.3