PAHO, University of Geneva cooperate on emergency preparedness, disaster relief

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the University of Geneva have signed an agreement to increase and facilitate cooperation on emergency preparedness and disaster relief programs.

The collaboration will directly involve PAHO's Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief program and the University of Geneva's Multifaculty Program in Humanitarian Action.

PAHO's Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Program was created in1976 after an earthquake in Guatemala. Since then it has become a world-renowned program that actively participates with other organizations in disaster preparedness, disaster mitigation in hospitals and water systems, and coordinating health needs assessments and assistance in emergency and other situations.

The University of Geneva program offers a masters degree in humanitarian action that covers analyzing humanitarian action related to armed conflict, natural disasters and associated population displacement as well as major social problems in industrialized societies such as abuse, detention and exclusion.

The agreement, which will go into effect immediately and last until April 2006, aims to improve professional development needs, based on the understanding that through synergy both organizations can have the greatest impact. It allows for the humanitarian action program to undertake academic research and analysis on certain topics and activities with PAHO.

A PAHO staff member will serve on the advisory board of the Multifaculty Program in Humanitarian Action. "Through this individual, PAHO will be able to provide advice and input to the University's Humanitarian Action Program," said an Emergency Preparedness official. Increased cooperation between PAHO and a European university is also expected to provide more visibility to the area of disaster preparedness.

Both organizations will cooperate in identifying candidates for the masters' program in Geneva and create a network of participants to maintain contact among graduates and participants of related PAHO courses. PAHO will also consider students in the program for internships in the Washington emergency preparedness program or in its sub-regional disaster offices in Costa Rica, Barbados and Ecuador.

The University of Geneva's humanitarian action program was created in 1993 and began offering a postgraduate degree in 1998. The program is designed for humanitarian workers and includes courses on Humanitarian Crisis Management, Public Health and Humanitarian Action, Emergency and Development and Law and Humanitarian Action.

The Pan American Health Organization, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the regional office of the World Health Organization.

For additional information, contact Daniel Epstein, PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.

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