D17 Healthcare in emergencies

DisastersEmergency Health Care
  • Following a major disaster, the health needs may be enormous. However, aside from injuries which require expert help, there are likely to be two major needs. The first is understanding and support to help people cope with trauma and the loss of loved ones. The second is to help people to identify relatives who have died and to enable them to carry out funerals in a manner which respects their culture.
  • Though commonly believed, bodies are rarely a threat to public health following a disaster. It is much more important to allow people to honour their dead. Until this is completed, few people will want to consider the future.
  • In an emergency all kinds of things need attention. Concentrate on the essential concerns. On arriving on the scene, first assess the situation. Work out what has happened and look for further dangers to the injured and yourself. Make the area safe.

Discussion 
  • What supplies of medical equipment should be stored in an emergency shelter? How often should these be checked and renewed? Who should do this? Who should be allowed to use these medicines?
  • How many people in the community have First Aid knowledge? Could several members attend training courses so there are people with an understanding of how to help in emergencies?
  • Though it is a difficult subject to talk about, discuss what might be required if, say, 50 people within the community were killed by a cyclone. What would be required to help people identify bodies and give them a dignified funeral?
  • After any disaster, whether large or small, people are likely to be traumatised. Does the community have anyone who is trained either professionally or through traditional experience to help in this? Is this a need to be explored? Does the church have a role in this?