2.1 Health sector partners

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  • Ministries of health: although the precise responsibilities of the Ministry of Health vary from country to county in Latin America and the Caribbean, all ministries share a common regulatory role in health matters. Most ministries of health have a dedicated Disaster Management Program or Unit, which is the first line of contact at national level for the planning and execution of emergency-related activities. Although the scope of the program may differ from one country to another, generic or model terms of reference exist for these programs. The Ministries of Health are also home to a variety of other health disciplines whose support is critical to emergency managers in preparedness as well as in crisis situations.  These specialists include the national focal points for International Health Regulations (IHR), health services, maintenance, laboratories and others.
  • Other health providers sharing common strategic objectives: these include the social security systems, security forces, non-profit organizations and private health providers. It is important to reach out to these partners and engage them in efforts to address disaster risk, as in some countries they are the most important health care providers.  In Costa Rica, for example, all health services belong to the social security.  In some countries, the process of decentralization has led to the transfer of responsibility for health care services to local governments and the result is a more complex network of health services—with different, capacities, organization, funding, and beneficiaries. This represents a challenge in terms of coordinating these actors and partners to work together on any health matter, including risk reduction, emergency preparedness and disaster relief.
  • NGOs and civil society networks: the term non-governmental organization (NGO) refers to a legally-constituted organization with no participation or representation of any government. NGOs are sometimes referred to as the independent sector, volunteer sector, civil society, grassroots organizations, private voluntary organizations, or non-state actors (NSAs). Non-governmental organizations are involved in a very wide range of activities and in many countries they are lead actors in health, education and other sectors. The World Health Organization and the Pan American health Organization have accredited a number of NGOs to collaborate specifically on health issues. Church-affiliated NGOs or other groups such as the World Association of the Scout Movement have also played an active role in humanitarian crises such as the earthquake in Haiti. Click here to view a list of UN-accredited NGOs.
  • The Red Cross Movement (ICRC, IFRC, and National Societies): The Red Cross Movement is the world's largest humanitarian network. The Movement is neutral and impartial, and provides protection and assistance to people affected by disasters and conflicts. While the Red Cross is well known for its rapid relief efforts in the wake of disasters, it also is a key player in preparedness and risk reduction, particularly with local communities, where its longstanding presence helps assists communities to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and strengthen their capacities to resist them. Consult the IFRC global disaster management strategy and coordination document.
  • PAHO and WHO Country Offices: Most member states of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization in Latin America and the Caribbean have a country representation office (several Caribbean islands are served collectively through the Office of the Caribbean Program Coordination in Barbados). Click here for the location of PAHO country offices and Centers. These PAHO/WHO country offices house a network of disaster focal points with explicit responsibility for disaster risk reduction, preparedness and for collaborating in the coordination of the humanitarian response to disasters. These focal points are not necessarily disaster management experts but rather specialists in communicable diseases, health services, mental health, water and sanitation and environmental health. This brings a wide gamut of technical expertise to all aspects of disaster management.