This book provides a collection of ten protocols for conducting rapid health assessments in the immediate aftermath of different types of emergencies. Noting the vital importance of rapid and accurate information in the earliest stage of an emergency the protocols respond to the urgent need for common standardized technical tools for assessing damage gauging health risks and gathering the information immediately needed by decision-makers at the national and international level.
The protocols were prepared by WHO in collaboration with a large number of international agencies and experts with broad experience in the field of emergency management. Although all protocols follow a common format each is specific to the circumstances potential hazards and immediate information needs that characterize a distinct type of emergency. Emphasis is placed on the exact information needed the best sources of data and methods for rapid collection and the specific questions that need to be answered in order to draw initial conclusions and direct immediate actions. Although the advantages of using experienced assessments teams are stressed the book also explains how the protocols can be used to train general health workers as part of emergency preparedness.
The book opens with an introductory protocol covering the aims and methods responsibilities complexities and inherent difficulties of rapid health assessments. Addressed to health authorities as well as assessment teams the chapter also includes abundant advice on preparedness for emergencies. Details range from the comparative need for speed in different types of emergencies through a suggested format for presenting the results of assessments to a list of common logistic organizational and technical errors. Advice on the best working practices including ways to avoid being an emergency tourist is also provided.
Against this background the additional nine protocols are presented according to a common format which covers the purpose of the assessment preparedness the steps to follow during the assessment assessing the impact on health assessing local response capacity and immediate needs and presenting results. A general protocol on epidemics of infectious origin is followed by protocols specific to meningitis outbreaks outbreaks of viral haemorrhagic fever including yellow fever and outbreaks of acute diarrhoeal disease with information specific to dysentery and cholera.
Sudden-impact natural disasters are covered in the next protocol which includes a day-by-day list of information priorities for different stages of the disaster. A protocol dealing with sudden population displacements offers guidelines for conducting rapid health assessments in all emergencies caused by sudden displacement of refugees or population groups within a country. Included are a sample checklist for rapid assessments and a sample form for weekly reports on morbidity and mortality. Subsequent protocols deal with the special situations of nutritional emergencies and chemical emergencies including those caused by food contaminated with chemicals or toxins. The final protocol addresses the difficult task of conducting assessments in complex emergencies in which the cause of the emergency as well as the assistance to the afflicted is complicated by intense levels of political considerations. The protocol includes a form which has recently been used for rapid health assessment at local level in Bosnia and Herzegovnia.
The book concludes with a brief summary of survey techniques followed by a tabular presentation of reference values for assessing needs hazards and logistic requirements in developing countries.