Health Emergency Preparedness In The Philippines

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Health Emergency Preparedness In The Philippines

Another typhoon, another disaster in the making.

The Philippines is a disaster-prone country due to its geographical location. About 19 typhoons hit our country annually bringing in severe floods or flashfloods to the metro and low-lying areas. 

Floods are compounded with other disasters like mass evacuation of people, landslides, disruption of road systems, communication and electricity. 

Being found in the Pacific Ring of Fire, our country is also hit often by earthquakes. There are other man-made disasters our country face due to peace and order issues like being caught in war or armed conflict. 

Because of the ever-increasing international travel and trade, the Philippines is vulnerable to the entry of infectious diseases.

From time to time, the country faces outbreaks of measles, influenza, dengue or leptospirosis; an also the threat of Zika, avian influenza, and other public-health threats of international concern.

These situations prompted the government to develop a health emergency preparedness plan.

Role Of The Department Of Health (DOH) and Local Government Units (LGUs)

One of the functions of the DOH focuses on preparedness and prevention during disaster management,. The responsibility to deliver health services of the DOH has been transferred to the LGUs in 1991 based on the Local Government Code. 

LGUs are expected to be the first to immediately and directly respond to disasters. However, when cases are beyond the capacity of LGUs, the national government takes control.  The Secretary of the DOH, upon the direction of the President and in consultation with other government units, can temporarily assume responsibility over health operations in any LGUs for the duration of the emergency. 

Specifically, the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the DOH acts as the Coordinating unit and Operation Center for all health emergencies and disasters. They are tasked to mobilize and share resources in such situations. They are also tasked to do the following: 

  • Develop, disseminate, and monitor the implementation of policies for health emergency preparedness,
  • Develop standardized training modules for various stakeholders on health emergency, and
  • Develop, disseminate and update emergency preparedness programs. 

The Philippines and International Health Regulations (IHR)

The Philippines still face challenges in the  implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR), “an agreement between 196 countries, including all World Health Organization (WHO) Member States, to work together for global health security. Through IHR, countries have agreed to build their capacities to detect, assess and report public health events.” 

A WHO report indicated that “political will is needed to save lives and build a safer and more secure world.”

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