‘We need to ensure that health services are fully operational to save lives and protect the well-being of populations before, during and after hurricanes,’ said Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the regional health agency.
She pointed out that it is vital to guarantee the protection and functionality of emergency care, hospitalization, intensive care unit beds, laboratories, and quarantine and isolation centers.
To that end, national and local authorities in countries at risk from hurricanes and associated extreme events must prepare for the 2021 hurricane season in the Atlantic, which began on June 1.
During this period, which runs through November 30, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 60 percent chance of above-normal activity.
It recently disclosed that between 13 and 20 named storms are anticipated, of which between six and 10 could be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes.
Currently, preparation is even more critical than in previous years due to Covid-19 and its consequences, together with the probable devastation of the strong winds and floods caused by this type of natural event.
Dr. Etienne urged officials, especially from the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and northern South America to update national response plans to these natural events and to carry out simulation exercises.
She insisted that each state should strengthen its evacuation plans, taking into account additional measures of physical distancing, as well as hygiene and sanitation, in the shelters.
She also called on countries to strengthen health care services by ensuring that personnel, essential supplies, and protective equipment are available when needed.
On May 20 and 21, representatives of the regional body met with disaster management officials from seven Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to analyze the main disaster risk reduction needs.
In 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota affected around 9.9 million people and caused considerable damage to medical infrastructure, especially in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Colombia, recalled Dr. Ciro Ugarte, Director of Health Emergencies at PAHO.