Global health bodies push for community-based taskforce

The Jakarta Post | Sat, 05/14/2011 6:25 AM |


International health agencies from across the world have called on governments to encourage reinforcement of the community-based health workforce by strengthening and preparing the existing health system to deal with the disaster aftermath.

Speaking on the sidelines of the third session of the World Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva on Wednesday, Budi A. Adiputro, the secretary-general of Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), told The Jakarta Post it was the task of the government to coordinate mitigation works in the event of natural hazards.

“We have on-field work to get in touch with the community and generate awareness on the need be involved in rehabilitation efforts,” he said in response to a joint statement launched by a group of United Nations and world health agencies on the issue.

“A prepared, active and well-organized community and its volunteers can reduce risk and soften the impact of emergencies,” Stefan Seebacher, head of the Health Department at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said.

Joining the calls included the Global Health Workforce Alliance, UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

The community-based health workforce consists of all actors at the community level that promote health and provide primary health care services.

Indonesia has been facing a mounting task in providing health services to the people displaced by the recent disasters, with many still deprived particularly from access to water and sanitation.

“In Merapi, we have to provide 1 million liters of clean water per day because of the damage to the water supply system,” Budi said.

Claiming to be supported by an army of 89,000 volunteers, Budi said PMI was assigned to field on the frontline in the event of disasters, including the tsunami in Mentawai that killed more than 500 people, injured 500, leaving more than 15,000 displaced from 642 destroyed houses.

“As the member of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, PMI shares the same mandate, which is to alleviate human suffering and carry out the role of auxiliary to the government in the context of the disaster management cycles,” he said.

Budi added that geographical barriers, and limited transportation and communication access remained an impediment to the mitigation campaign in Mentawai.

The world health agencies applauded the volunteers’ role in the relief operation.

“Because many lives are saved in the first hours following an emergency, well before external help arrives, we want to give recognition to all local actors and include them in planning for all types of emergencies,” Seebacher said.

Sumarsono, PMI deputy chairman in charge of disaster management, said the community-based taskforce had duties, which included helping the displaced build temporary homes with the hope that the scheme could ease their psychological suffering, and provide them with financial earnings.

Source URL: The Jakarta Post