MUMBAI, INDIA – December 5, 2008 — AmeriCares, a nonprofit international relief organization, is working with local authorities, hospital officials and other public-private partners to expand disaster preparedness and trauma training in India. The training and exercises are aimed at helping health care systems prepare for large-scale disasters, whether they are man-made such as last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, or natural disasters such as the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. The programs offer first responders, emergency medical personnel, local authorities and health care providers a unique opportunity to hone their skills and identify gaps in their disaster management systems in order to improve planning, coordination and communication.
“The recent attacks in Mumbai serve as a tragic reminder of why we need to invest further in disaster preparedness work,” said Elizabeth Furst Frank, senior vice president of global programs at AmeriCares. “It is so important to have health care systems prepared to work in a coordinated way so lives can be saved in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. The crisis situations that have occurred throughout India – from the devastating tsunami to last week’s terrorist attacks — underscore the importance for communities around the world to prepare themselves to be able to treat people during and after an emergency.”
AmeriCares supports disaster preparedness and training programs as part of our commitment to global emergency response, most recently in early November where they worked in partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the University of Mumbai, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and other organizations to sponsor disaster management exercises in Mumbai, India. In addition to the recent disaster drill in Mumbai, AmeriCares has supported disaster preparedness programs in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, as well as in Sri Lanka, Turkey, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
The course curriculum was organized into parallel tracks for emergency medical techs (EMTs), physicians, and hospital administrators. The three groups came together with the local police and fire departments, local NGOs, Civil Hospital, the local community, and the Government of Mumbai for a table top disaster exercise followed by an all day, coordinated disaster drill.
“Disaster preparedness is crucial training for any medical professional. It is proven that the stronger the response system and the more coordinated the efforts among all responders, the more lives can be saved in those crucial first 48-hours after an emergency occurs,” said Dr. Purvish Parikh, managing director of AmeriCares India. “The training provides the opportunity for all parties to work together in order to respond to the needs of people impacted by a crisis. For instance, during the Civil Hospital bombing in Ahmedabad this summer, some of the trauma center staff on duty had participated in our disaster preparedness drill. Later, they were grateful that their training enabled them to provide medical treatment in a more efficient and systematic manner.”
In November, 2007, AmeriCares supported New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in conducting training sessions in emergency medicine, trauma care, disaster preparedness and response for health care professionals at Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital in the state of Gujarat. The Gujarat Ministry of Health was also a key partner in the initiative. The drill simulated an emergency response in the event of a bombing that resulted in mass casualties. Unfortunately, that was the exact scenario which presented itself at the Civil Hospital in July 2008 when a series of devastating explosions caused 49 deaths and more than 110 injuries, including two bomb blasts at the hospital itself.
AmeriCares recently launched a base of operations in Mumbai, which will enable the organization to respond more rapidly to crises in India and the surrounding region. “AmeriCares remains committed to emergency relief activities that strengthen the response capabilities of our health care partners,” added Furst Frank. “For more than 25 years, AmeriCares has been delivering aid in response to the ongoing need for medicines around the world. That need is never more pronounced than when a tragedy occurs.”