Minister of Housing, Donville Inniss (left), in conversation with??Caribbean Programme Coordinator and??PAHO/WHO Representative Dr. Ernest Pate at the workshop.??In the background is Coordinator of Emergency Institutional Readiness of the WHO,??Dr. Rudi Coninx. (A. Miller/BGIS)

An approach to training that would lead the region to better coordinate and plan for disasters has been lauded by this island’s Health Minister, Donville Inniss.??

Health cluster training, which was introduced by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), was recently highlighted by the Minister as an effective mechanism for member states.

He was, at the time, addressing regional and international delegates at a PAHO-sponsored workshop at the Amaryllis Beach Resort, when he made it clear that the two entities were instrumental in assisting the region in preparing for disasters.

While commending the training, Mr. Inniss said: "The initiative is part of a Global Health Cluster (GHC) under the leadership of the WHO.?? It is made up of more than 30 international humanitarian health organisations that have been working together over the past four years to build partnerships and mutual understanding and to develop common approaches to humanitarian health action. Many of these lessons have been learnt in Haiti and in other countries following disasters.

"The cluster mechanism was promoted by the United Nations (UN) to improve the international response in the event of a disaster.?? This mechanism which is constantly being improved has the advantage of supporting the response system of the member states.?? PAHO/WHO considers the cluster to be a tool with great potential to attract resources and bring visibility to the health sectors in the participating countries."??

The cluster approach is a way of organising, coordinating and providing cooperation among humanitarian actors to facilitate joint strategic planning. It establishes a clear system of leadership and accountability for international response in each sector, under the overall leadership of the humanitarian coordinator and provides a framework for effective partnerships among international and national humanitarian actors in each sector.

??It also ensures that international responses are appropriately aligned with national structures and facilitates strong linkages among international organisations, national authorities, national civil society and other stakeholders.

The cluster training workshop in Barbados focused on how countries could better prepare themselves for emergencies and disasters and it was noted by Minister Inniss that with more attention to preparedness, the region could mitigate the effects and increase the resilience of Caribbean countries.??

He said: "The objective of disaster preparedness is to ensure that appropriate systems, procedures and resources are in place to provide prompt and effective assistance to the victims, thus facilitating relief measures and rehabilitation services.

"Disaster preparedness is an ongoing, multi-sectoral activity that forms an integral part of the national system responsible for development plans and programmes for disaster management."

Delegates heard too that the health sector formed an essential part of the inter-sectoral system for disaster preparedness and response. And, Barbados’ Health Minister added: "Its organisation and response mechanism require careful planning and has to take into account the vulnerability of the country or specific region, policy and legislation on disasters and the administrative and technical organisation of the health sector."

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