Nepal marks one year of the earthquake on April 25, 2016. The health sector partners reviewed the lessons learnt from the calamity and recommended strengthening and expanding emergency preparedness and response capacities beyond the national capital to prepare better for future emergencies.
"We must learn from the Nepal earthquake, just as we did from the Indian Ocean tsunami. Applying lessons learnt from such events can help strengthen our efforts for preventing emergencies from becoming disasters," Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia, said.
Dr Khetrapal Singh was addressing a two-day 'Lessons Learnt Conference: Health Sector Response to Nepal Earthquake 2015, organized by the Ministry of Health, Nepal, and WHO, at Kathmandu on 20-21 April.
The response to the Nepal earthquake by the health sector was rapid, well-coordinated among the health partners and tailored to the needs of the affected population.
"While acknowledging what was done right, we must also identify areas where we could have done better and explain the reasons behind these," said the Regional Director.
The need for extending emergency preparedness and response measures to the districts, beyond the national capital was highlighted at the conference.
Over 80% of the healthcare facilities in the affected districts were either damaged or destroyed in the earthquake last year. The injured were taken to hospitals in Kathmandu, which remained functional as they had been retrofitted. The staff were trained in mass casualty management and they had emergency plans in place that were immediately activated.
"The preparations that were done in Kathmandu hospitals helped saved many lives. Similar preparations need to be put in place at all other levels too, so that in the event of an emergency, everyone throughout the health system is prepared and knows what to do. As health facilities are being reconstructed, there is an opportunity to build better, and put more risk reduction measures in place" said Dr Khetrapal Singh.
To ensure disaster risk reduction measures are implemented, stronger policies are needed. Emergency preparedness and response capacities are built at all levels with all cadres of health staff trained.
Robust emergency response plans should be in place at all levels and should be tested periodically for their effectiveness. These plans should be all encompassing - from ensuring resilient and safe hospitals, to training health staff and effectively engaging communities, to minimize the health impact of any emergency.
"Strengthening emergency preparedness and response capacity should be an ongoing process in Nepal and all other countries. With WHO South-East Asia Region prone to natural calamities, the lessons learnt from the Nepal earthquake are important for the entire region to prepare better to respond to emergencies," Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
The WHO is committed to continuing to work with the Nepal government and partners for rebuilding a resilient health sector to save lives in any emergency.