World Health Day 2009

Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies

World Health Day 2009 focuses on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. Health centres and staff are critical life-lines for vulnerable people in disasters - treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for people's health needs.

They are cornerstones for primary health care in communities –meeting everyday needs, such as safe childbirth services, immunizations and chronic disease care that must continue in emergencies. Often, already fragile health systems are unable to keep functioning through a disaster, with immediate and future public health consequences.

World Health Day  2009 website

WHO Regional World Health Day websites

African Region ¦ Region of the Americas ¦  South-East Asia Region ¦ European Region ¦ Eastern Mediterranean Region ¦ Western Pacific Region


How emergencies affect health

  • More than 11 000 medical institutions were damaged in China's Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008, forcing tens of thousands of people to seek treatment elsewhere.
  • Current conflicts in Ethiopia and Gaza are interrupting primary health services, such as immunizations.
  • The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 damaged 61% of health facilities in Indonesia's Aceh province, and killed nearly a third of the area's midwives, a major loss for women's health.


Building on success

Several countries are working to keep hospitals safe, improving preparedness to protect lives.

    • In Mexico, trained evaluators have diagnosed the safety of 200 health facilities, identifying which facilities need improvements.
    • Multi-functional facilities for health, education and agriculture were built in Bangladesh to aid relief after cyclones and floods - which saved thousands of lives after Cyclone Sidr in 2007.
    • In Japan, Pakistan and Peru, health facilities are now built to withstand earthquakes.
    • Hospitals in Somalia continue to treat patients during insecurity to ensure health for all.

- Statement by Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General
Jet Li appointed Goodwill Ambassador

Frequently asked questions: emergencies [pdf 115kb]

Brochure: World Health Day 2009