Minimize impact of natural disasters through preparedness and training

Managing the effects of disasters is a public health priority for Iran, among the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Earthquakes and floods are Iran’s first priorities, followed closely by drought. Iran experiences more earthquakes than any other country and also is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations in terms of the number of people killed or hurt from earthquakes yearly. Environmental and ecological emergencies, as well as epidemics and other acute health events, also pose threats.

Iran’s experience in dealing with frequent major disasters has provided many opportunities for improvements in public health preparedness and response that can be considered as models for neighboring countries that share this vulnerability. However, there is still room for improvement, including the need for better coordination, constructive adoption of lessons learned, more coherent legislation, and adoption of evidence-based policies. Notably, shortages of trained response teams limit disaster management at all levels – from policy and planning to field operations.

Iran’s Institute of Public Health Research provides some basic training in disaster management, but recent experience has confirmed the need to adapt the program to Iran’s health system and disaster conditions.

With IANPHI funding for a capacity-building project, the institute designed a successful training program on disaster management and risk reduction based on national experience and international expertise. With disaster preparedness a critical capacity for neighboring countries as well, policy makers envision the country becoming a center of expertise and resources in the region. Toward this end, IPHR has established a Steering Committee to sustain and enhance the program, and the Ministry of Health and Tehran University of Medical Sciences, together with WHO, are preparing a pilot training course based on the materials produced.