On the Opening of the DRM-H Regional Workshop at Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi

Dr Liu Yunguo, Director, Division of Pacific Technical Support, WHO WPRO
Mr Manasa Tagicakabau, Director, Fiji National Disaster Management Office
Representatives of World Health Organization – Manila Office
Representatives of World Health Organization – Suva Office
Representatives of Various UN Organizations
Representatives of the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) – SOPAC Division
Health DRM Representatives of Pacific Island Countries & Areas
Facilitators & Trainers
Representatives of the Media
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning!

It gives me great pleasure to provide some comments on behalf of the Government of Fiji and Ministry of Health – Fiji and to warmly welcome all the participants to this occasion of the Regional Disaster Risk Management for Health Workshop.

Setting the Scene:
According to the 2013 World Risk Report, the Western Pacific Region is notoriously known as the world’s disaster epicenter: 10 of the top 20 countries most exposed to natural hazards such as typhoons (cyclones), earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis reside in the Western Pacific. Furthermore, booming economies expose large geographical areas and dense populations to technological hazards such as air pollution, contamination of large crop productions with chemical hazard materials, structural collapse and transportation accidents.

There are more tropical typhoons forming in the tropical western regions of North Pacific Ocean than anywhere else in the world. More than 25 tropical storms develop each year, and about 18 become typhoons/cyclones. Sixteen of the 18 deadliest tropical typhoons/cyclones in history occurred in the Western Pacific Region. Over the past 100 years, seven out of the top 10 largest flood disasters in the world have occurred in the Western Pacific Region.

Ninety percent of recorded tsunamis have occurred in the Pacific Ocean, which is bordered by the so-called “Ring of Fire” comprised of major geological subduction zones, where 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes are located. Great trans-Pacific tsunamis are typically caused by massive earthquakes located in these subduction zones and occur at mean intervals of once a decade. In a 100-year period from 1895 to 1995, there were 454 tsunamis recorded in the Pacific Ocean, the deadliest of which killed more 51 000 people.

Disaster Risk Management – Health:
In the last 20 years, disaster management has been largely reactive – taking actions during and after an event. Now a now proactive approach focusing on managing risks related to different hazards with specific activities for all the 4 phases of the Disaster Risk Management cycle (DRM), namely: prevention, preparedness, response to and recovery is being taken.

As you all know, in 2005, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005 – 2015 was created to offer a set of actions to substantially reduce human and economic losses and build the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. Countries are now using a more comprehensive and long-term approach to identify hazards, assess vulnerabilities and prepare exposed communities for disasters before they occur.

As a new post-Hyogo (Post 2015) agenda for disaster risk reduction has begun to emerge, aiming to avoid new risk to emerge in addition to reducing existing ones, it is clear that the health sector must take a more active role in disaster risk reduction, with strong linkages to other sectors, and an emphasis on enhancing partnership among governments, communities and organizations.

In Fiji’s Disaster Context:
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

There have been 36 recorded natural disasters in Fiji since 1980, with 221 fatalities and over $1 billion dollars’ worth of economic damage to Fiji’s economy. Natural disasters such as Cyclone Evan which battered Samoa and Fiji in 2012 – 2013 and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Solomon Islands recently remind us again of the power of nature and the vulnerability the high levels of risk to Pacific nations of both climate change impacts and natural disasters.

The Health costs and implications to these disasters are often under estimated.

DRM – Ministry of Health – Fiji
At this junction, I would like to share Fiji’s Health Ministry’s approach to Disaster Management.

The guiding principles of Disaster Management for Health are defined in a Plan know as the Health Emergency & Disaster Management Action Plan (HEADMAP). This document was developed during the SARS and Avian Influenza events and has been periodically revised. The document attempts to encompass the four phases of disaster risk management and focuses four key components identified in the Regional Framework of Action for Disaster Risk Management for Health; namely Governance, Policy, Planning, and Coordination; Information and Knowledge Management; Health and related services and Resources:

A key focus of Fiji Ministry of Health has also been ensuring that our health facilities are safe during disasters. Periodic inspections of all health facilities are conducted. Planning of new facilities is carefully considered to avoid future hazards.

Our Ministry has established a Unit within the Ministry which looks at after Disaster Risk Management – developing policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures for health staff.

The Health Ministry also works very closely with our National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to align itself towards a collective vision of ensuring the populations at risk are well prepared and to reduce risks both to human life and to systems important to livelihood.

Conclusion Remarks
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion disaster preparedness is everyone’s business. The disaster whether natural or human-caused can sometimes be unavoidable but we can prepare ourselves to be ready if they happen and minimize the impact of the disaster to human being.

Disasters affect all works of life and it our duty to mitigate the effects of disasters.

In Pacific we are fortunate to have kind offers of international assistance in times of disasters and I would like to thank you those partners in assisting us at our time of need.

However, being prepared for the unexpected takes planning and this gathering is a landmark event as we prepare for the next World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 in Japan and stamp our (health) mark towards DRM for Health.

I am indeed grateful to WHO towards organizing this workshop and I wish you all a successful Workshop and I look forward to its outcomes.

Thank you for your attention!

Dr. Neil Sharma – Minister for Health – Fiji