Water and sanitation as a focus for public health
After a disaster, waterborne diseases can be fatal but are easily preventable
- By: Eric P Heymann, Seema Biswas
We are never far from a complex emergency. Every day we are inundated with images and news reports of disasters that require international aid. When we begin to respond to such an event, what should we prioritise? Water, sanitation, and hygiene in the aftermath of complex emergencies are paramount.
The term complex emergency is defined by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs as “a humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires an international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing United Nations country program.”1
Disaster response has several steps: preparation, the actual response, recovery and rehabilitation, and preparation for the future to mitigate future risks and build infrastructure.
As complex emergencies usually arise when disaster, natural or manmade, strikes