Health needs during hurricanes
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that we are all at risk and need to pay close attention to health during emergencies. Red Cross National Societies across the Americas region placed health at the forefront of their response during 2020, taking into consideration the needs of mental health and psychosocial support as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The Red Cross, in its disaster response, offers psychosocial support to persons ensuring that not just their physical needs but also mental needs are met.
The Red Cross works closely with States in ensuring mental health and psychosocial support needs are met both during the pandemic and the hurricane season. For example, the Jamaica Red Cross has partnered with the Ministry of Health to train community members in Psychological First Aid to reach those in remote communities which may need psychosocial support.
WASH became a critical component of the response too, especially during the pandemic. Red Cross National Societies like Belize Red Cross, Honduras Red Cross and Nicaragua Red Cross undertook several activities including sensitization sessions on hygiene and sanitation to help prevent spread of illnesses during events like Hurricanes Eta and Iota. We must take immediate actions to reduce the negative impacts of health in emergencies and can do it by following some of these recommendations:
A continuous and sustainable learning process with attention to training volunteers from the community or close to it, properly connected and ready for action.
Strengthen rapid action, risk detection and control, community support.
Support the Red Cross National Societies for case traceability, WASH actions and the articulation of the health services network.
Maintain the continuity of health services, also considering the pre-existing conditions of the population. It is always recommended to identify and use the health assets that are available.
Take care of the frontline staff. Addressing mental health needs is critical for the population and emergency responders. Mental health programs accelerate recovery.
Promote WASH programs and strengthen biosecurity measures, even if we are amid an emergency response, we must not forget the prevention of epidemics.
Learn new health technologies that strengthen emergency response. Many are adapted to expand health services and serve a wider population.
Building more resilient systems based on sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions. Good communication establishes trusting relationships with the community.
Solutions are shared actions among several actors and coordination helps to optimize resources and generate strategic alliances.