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[afro-nets] Access to health information in disaster situations: dead bodies and disease

Cross-posted from HIFA2015

Dear Colleagues, 

The recent tragedy in Haiti has highlighted many problems associated with 
dealing with disaster situations - the efforts of aid workers and others 
working on the ground under both dangerous and difficult circumstances to help 
the victims of the earthquake must be highly commended.

A recent BBC article entitled "Do dead bodies in Haiti pose a health risk?" referred to the 
publication "Management of Dead Bodies After Disasters: A Field Manual for 
First Responders"*. The article claims that the guide was compiled after 
numerous disasters - the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Haiti's 2004 floods, Hurricanes 
Katrina and Stan and the Northern Pakistan and Indian earthquakes which 
"highlighted an absence of advice on what to do and why". 

It may therefore be interesting at this point to discuss access to health 
information in such emergency situations, so that aid workers and others are 
better prepared to cope with future disasters. What are the experiences of 
other HIFA members in this area? Can we learn from each other?

*the manual:$File/ICRC_002_0880.PDF 


(The comments expressed here are my own viewpoints and do not necessarily 
represent views or work of WHO or of TDR)

HIFA2015 profile: Julie N Reza is a senior scientific editor at TDR, a Special 
Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, based in Geneva. TDR 
is an independent global programme of scientific collaboration (co-sponsored by 
the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development 
Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO)) that 
helps coordinate, support and influence global efforts to combat a portfolio of 
major diseases of the poor and disadvantaged. Julie has experience as a writer 
and consultant specialising in global healthcare, international health and 
development, and biomedical science and health ( Prior 
to this she was medical writer and project manager at the Wellcome Trust, 
London, UK, where she worked on a variety of international health topics 
including African trypanosomiasis and trachoma. In her early career she worked 
as a researcher in immunology and in neuroscience. She also has several years 
experience of teaching immunology at postgraduate level. naimareza AT

[Note from HIFA2015 moderator. The BBC article quotes Sir Nicholas Young, 
British Red Cross chief executive and trustee of the Disasters Emergency 
Committee: "There is this myth that bodies have to be disposed of incredibly 
quickly, which often leads to bodies being shoved into pits without any form of 
identification. [This makes it] impossible for the relatives to grieve. 
Impossible to know how many people died and impossible for people to identify 
their relatives. This is a terrible shame. The risk is absolutely minimal, 
unless there is disease in the population. This is a mistake and a waste of 
resources."... The article also states: 'Bodies of people who died healthy do 
not spread disease. People handling bodies run a slight risk, which can be 
reduced with basic hygiene.' Thanks, Neil PW] 

HIFA2015: Healthcare Information For All by 2015 With thanks 
to our 2010 Sponsors: British Medical Association, ePORTUGUESe/World Health 
Organization, Network for Information and Digital Access To join or unsubscribe 
from HIFA2015, email:
To join our sister group CHILD2015 (child health), go to:
To join our sister group HIFA2015-Portuguese, go to: 

Annie Kearns
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