2.6. Coordination mechanisms

  • Share

A preparedness plan in the health sector encompasses the national, regional, and municipal/local levels. At each level, depending on the degree of complexity of the health institutions involved, the plan assigns a team leader, or “emergency coordinator.” This person has the primary responsibility for coordinating activities within the scope of the authorities set out in the plan.

Coordination activities and mechanisms are fundamental parts of a plan, and must be established before a disaster occurs. This means establishing relationships with those responsible for different areas and activities, and being familiar with the capacities of each institution. Coordination requires harmonization and mutual understanding between different actors and institutions, all of whom are expected to act according to their respective capacities and authority.

a) Intra-institutional level: It is important to establish the chains of command that link all the specialized departments and support entities.

b) Regional and municipal (local) level: Harmonization is key and must encompass the health sector’s institutions, disaster management agencies, civil defense, local health NGOs, and even the private sector.

c) National level: Of particular importance are the coordination activities that the ministry of health carries out with disaster management agency, civil defense, the army, police, fire departments, other key ministries, civil society organizations involved in disaster response, search and rescue groups, and the mass media. All these institutions should be familiarized with the national disaster plan.

d) International level: Coordination with specialized organizations and health agencies involved in disaster management and response, such as PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, WFP, etc., who actively cooperate with national health sector plans, as well as with other international institutions interested in collaborating with the countries in disaster preparedness. Consideration should be made with the international arrangement of “clusters” as coordination mechanisms, for which the ministries of health should be prepared for joint leadership with PAHO at the national level.

In the preparedness phase, those responsible for national planning should meet regularly with the people in charge at national and international institutions to exchange information and identify possible areas of cooperation and joint activity, such as training, mobilization of financial resources, and provision of experts or equipment.