Health Emergency & Disaster Management

Last Updated on 3 years by Publishing Team

Health Emergencies and Disaster in Fiji

According to the World Health Organisation, over the last 10 years, an average of 700 disasters has been reported every year. Annually, an estimated 268 million people are affected by disasters, of whom more than 100,000 are killed. In 2010, humanitarian emergencies requiring international assistance occurred in 32 countries. The epidemiological profile associated with disasters and conflicts is changing. Although most of the mortality associated with disasters and conflicts continues to be due to infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases are increasingly among the top five causes of morbidity and mortality in such settings. Global trends in urbanisation are providing a further impetus for the adaptation of intervention strategies.

Fiji is geographically situated in one of the most natural disaster prone areas in the world. Some hazards occur as a consequence of tropical depressions and cyclones or as part of tropical weather condition that normally affects the region. Hazards such as landslides, flash floods and  storm surges are most common.

Since 1980, there have been 36 recorded natural disasters in Fiji, with 221 fatalities and over 1 billion dollars worth of economic damage to Fiji’s economy.


National Health Emergencies and Disaster Management Plan (HEADMAP)

In 2002, The Ministry of Health had drafted its National Disaster Management Plan and aligned it to the Fiji National Disaster Management Plan. The first National Health Emergencies and Disaster Management Plan (or HEADMAP) was designed along with the Fiji National Pandemic Plan and the Draft Communicable Disease Guideline, Since then, the review of the 2007 – 2011 HEADMAP has seen the addition of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and specific guidelines for various types of hazards faced in Fiji.

The revised HEADMAP, released in January 2013 is supported by a number of other plans and documents related to disaster risk reduction and disaster management.

Objectives of HEADMAP

The primary objective of the Fiji National Health Emergencies and Disaster Management Plan (HEADMAP) is to serve as a guide for the health sector in the management of public health emergencies and disasters.

The specific objectives include:

    • Minimise the potential loss of lives and impact of disasters;
    • Ensure prompt and appropriate disaster responses to affected communities
    • Achieve rapid recovery and rehabilitation following any emergency/disaster.
    • Ensure provision of adequate resources to support implementation at various levels


Cluster Approach to Disaster Management

Coordination in emergencies is vital.  Appropriate coordination results in fewer gaps and less overlaps.  It allows for a more coherent and complementary approach, and encourages different partners in the response, preparedness and recovery phases of disasters to work together for better collective results.

Disaster Management Clusters have been adopted for Fiji to improve coordination.  The Clusters are groups of organisations working in the main sectors of humanitarian action.  Clusters provide a clear point of contact and are accountable for adequate and appropriate action.  They create partnerships between international humanitarian actors, national and local authorities, and civil society.

A global cluster system has been in place for some time, strongly supported by the United Nations and partner organizations.  Clusters have also been implemented at the Regional level, represented by the Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT).

The Fiji National Clusters have been closely based on the global and regional clusters.  The adoption of similar clusters means that there is better understanding of the role of each cluster, providing ready access to terms of reference and standard operating procedures.  It also means that there is more potential for assistance for partnering, training and funding.

Eight National Clusters have been adopted.  These are illustrated in figure below.

They are:

  • Health & Nutrition (Lead:  MOH, Co-Lead:  WHO),
  • Shelter (Lead: MOLGUDH&E, Co-Lead: IFRC),
  • Education (Lead: MOE, Co-Leads: UNICEF, STC),
  • Food Security (Lead: DOA, Co-Lead: NK),
  • Safety & Protection (Lead MOWSW&PA, Co-Lead: NK),
  • WASH (Lead: MOH-EH, Co-Lead: UNICEF),
  • Logistics (Lead: MOF – FPO, Co-lead: NDMO),
  • Public Works & Utilities (Lead: MOWT&PU, Co-Lead: NK).

Fiji National Disaster Management Clusters


Comprehensive Emergency & Disaster Management

In order to incorporate the Risk Reduction and Risk Management components of Disasters Management, the Health & Disaster Emergency Management requires an integrated comprehensive approach through four phases of emergency & disaster management, namely:

(a) Mitigation and Wellness (Prevention)

This phase encompasses actions to avoid an incident, to intervene to stop an incident from occurring or to mitigate an incident’s effects. It involves actions to protect lives and property and to defend against attacks, and may include public health surveillance and testing processes, immunizations, isolation or quarantine.

(b) Preparedness

This phase includes the activities necessary to build and sustain performance across the other phases. It involves efforts at all levels: to identify risks or threats; to determine vulnerabilities; to identify resources available and to address those vulnerabilities; to identify requirements or shortfalls; and conduct training and exercises.

(c) Response

This phase incorporates the activities necessary to address the immediate and short-term effects of an incident. Response activities include assessing preliminary effects, activating and deploying emergency resources, executing an emergency management plan, allocating existing resources in support of the plan and obtaining additional resources to sustain response operations.

(d) Recovery

The final phase encompasses those actions necessary to bring a community back to normal. It entails the coordination and execution of business continuity plans and the reconstitution of government operations and services


The integrated comprehensive approach through four phases of emergency & disaster management is shown in the figure below:



These phases are interdependent and, in practice, an affected community will address all of the phases consecutively although the emphasis may shift between them. The health services sectors need to be involved in all phases.

Alert Levels

The following are the emergency activation levels that apply to the ministry. This is an internal emergency management structure and the levels are not directly related to those that may be assigned in other organizations or jurisdictions:


Disaster Preparedness Campaign

The Government of Fiji is committed to improve disaster preparedness throughout the nation – and to ensure that everyone, young, old, woman, man, able, disabled, sick or healthy know how to protect themselves and other before, during and after a disaster.

The Ministry of Health therefore has developed the Get Ready. Disasters Happen campaign. This has been done with financial support from AusAID and NZ Aid and technical support from UNICEF Pacific.


On 9th May 2013, a one-day Training of Trainer in regards to Disaster Preparedness Communication was held in Suva for more than 70 participants from eight participating districts from various Government and non-government sectors. The training was based on the disaster preparedness campaign.

The campaign objective is simple:

“To ensure greater disaster preparedness leading to an overall reduction in disaster related casualties, illnesses and incidents of violence and abuse”

The campaign has been developed to facilitate massive, repetitive, intensive and persistent communication to achieve the objective through a focus on 10 key family practices.

The ten key messages are:

  • Know where your family members are at all times.
  • Get your children immunised.
  • Don’t leave anybody behind.
  • Keep your family fed as best you can but don’t eat spoiled food.
  • Boil all drinking water.
  • Dispose of waste safely.
  • Seek medical attention for diarrhoea, high fevers or unusual body pains.
  • Help your children feel safe and loved.
  • Get your children back to school and into a routine as soon as possible.
  • Work together and help your community recover.

The campaign will utilise a combination of print materials, 10 TV and 10 radio spots, a website, a mobile phone application, a Facebook quiz, text messages and trained interpersonal communicators at community level. Print, audio and visual materials have also been translated into three languages, English, iTaukei and Hindi.

The campaign was officially launched in April 2013. Between May and July key Government & Non-Government actors (trainers) will be trained to strengthen their inter-personal communication skills, and they were equipped with the print pocket guides and posters to promote the 10 key messages at family level. In August the Ministry initiated an intensive TV, radio and text messaging campaign that will promote the 10 key messages in advance of the coming cyclone season.

This campaign is a first for a South Pacific country and it has the potential to contribute to an overall improvement of disaster preparedness and response in Fiji. With climate change now being a lived reality and bringing an increase in natural disasters, addressing disaster preparedness is both necessary and an economic priority. Good preparedness and response will lead to fewer lives lost, fewer outbreaks of diseases and less damage to people and property.

The campaign also puts Fiji and Ministry of Health at the forefront of disaster preparedness.

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You can also learn more about disaster preparedness and management on the National Disaster Management Office website: