Biological disasters define the devastating effects caused by an enormous spread of a disease, virus or infestations of plant, animal or insect life on an epidemic or pandemic level.
Cholera and Influenza H1N1 (Swine flu) outbreaks are examples of biological disasters.
Epidemic- level biological disasters affect large numbers of people within a given community or area, whereas pandemic- level biological disasters affect a much larger region, sometimes spanning entire continents or the globe.
Biological hazards, also known as biohazards, refers to biological substances or organic matters produced by parasites, viruses, bacteria, fungi and protein that pose a threat to the health of living organisms, primarily that of humans.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is the nodal ministry for handling epidemics, decision making, advisory body and emergency medical relief provider.
According to the constitution, health is a state subject. The primary responsibility of dealing with biological disasters rests with the state government.
Biological Warfare (BW) also known as germ warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is the nodal ministry for BW and partners with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its management.
WHO contributes to global health security by:
Strengthening national surveillance programmes. o Disseminating verified information on outbreaks of diseases, and also by providing technical support for response.
Collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on diseases likely to cause epidemics of global importance.
There are number of legislations that control and govern the nation’s health policies. The government can enforce these legislations to contain the spread of diseases.
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the rules (1986)
The Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for the effective management of disasters.
Preventive and control measures at work place
Elimination of the source of contamination is fundamental to the prevention and control of biological hazards.
Engineering controls such as improvement of ventilation, partial isolation of the contamination source and the use of ultraviolet lamps can help contain the spread.
Personal hygiene like washing hands before and after work is the simplest and most basic method to avoid infection.
Personal protection The employees must use personal protective equipment and adhere strictly to the practice of personal hygiene.
Sterilization is the process using heat or high pressure to eliminate bacteria and microorganisms to ensure that employees would not be harmed through exposure in the risk area.
Prevention of Biological Disasters
The important means for prevention of biological disasters include the following:
Vulnerability Analysis and Risk Assessment.
Safe water supply and proper maintenance of sewage pipeline will go a long way in prevention of biological disasters.
Necessary awareness should be created in the community about the importance of personal hygiene.
Vector control programmes like elimination of breeding places, regular spraying of insecticides, keeping a watch on rodent population and burial / disposal of the dead bodies.
Psychological First Aid:
A Way to De-stress during Distress Introduction
Natural calamities appear to recurrent phenomena regionally across the country and affect individuals of all age, sex, caste and creed.
Several regions in the country are such that children have grown up experiencing violence and disasters which will have an impact to mental health and well being.
Managing such adversaries and disaster preparedness occupies an important place in this country’s policy framework as it is the under privileged who are worst affected on account of disasters.
There is an urgent need for a spearheaded approach for promoting natural recovery to restore functionality among the people affected by traumatic event, extending appropriate and timely interventions.
Providing Psychological First Aid
Psychological first aid aims at providing immediate supportive response to someone who is suffering in wake of disaster.
The first objective in the aftermath of disaster shall be focused on ensuring that immediate practical needs of survivors are met.
This involves helping people to feel physically safe through provision of temporary housing, help people able to locate the family members, help in developing a sense of feeling connected to others and provide physical, emotional and social support.
Once the physical needs are met, people need interpersonal support and acceptance from family, community and caregivers to return back to normal life.
WHO framework for Psychological First Aid
WHO has developed a framework consisting of 3 action principles which provide guidance to view and safely enter an emergency situation (LOOK) in order to understand the needs of affected people (LISTEN) and link them with the information and practical support they need (LINK).
Therefore the first responders, primary care givers and disaster relief workers shall be equipped with basic minimum skills to extend immediate care in terms of psychological first aid.
World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction
The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is a series of United Nations conferences focusing on disaster and climate risk management in the context of sustainable development. The World Conference has been convened three times, with each edition to date having been hosted by Japan: in Yokohama in 1994, in Kobe in 2005 and in Sendai in 2015.
As requested by the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) served as the coordinating body for the Second and Third UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2005 and 2015.
The conferences bring together government officials and other stakeholders, such as NGOs, civil society organizations, local government and private sector representatives from around the world to discuss how to strengthen the sustainability of development by managing disaster and climate risks.
The Third UN World conference adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. Previous conference outcomes include the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005 – 2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters in 2005 and the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World in 1994.
The First World Conference on Natural Disasters in Yokohama, Japan from 23 to 27 May 1994, adopted the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World: Guidelines for Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation and its Plan of Action, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1994.
It was the main outcome of the mid-term review of the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and established 10 principles for its strategy, a plan of action and a follow-up. Furthermore, it provides guidelines for natural disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation.
Ten principles of the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World
The ten principles of the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World:
Risk assessment is a required step for the adoption of adequate and successful disaster reduction policies and measures.
Disaster prevention and preparedness are of primary importance in reducing the need for disaster relief.
Disaster prevention and preparedness should be considered integral aspects of development policy and planning at national, regional, bilateral, multilateral and international levels.
The development and strengthening of capacities to prevent, reduce and mitigate disasters is a top priority area to be addressed during the Decade so as to provide a strong basis for follow-up activities to the Decade.
Early warnings of impending disasters and their effective dissemination using telecommunications, including broadcast services, are key factors to successful disaster prevention and preparedness.
Preventive measures are most effective when they involve participation at all levels, from the local community through the national government to the regional and international level.
Vulnerability can be reduced by the application of proper design and patterns of development focused on target groups, by appropriate education and training of the whole community.
The international community accepts the need to share the necessary technology to prevent, reduce and mitigate disaster; this should be made freely available and in a timely manner as an integral part of technical cooperation.
Environmental protection as a component of sustainable development consistent with poverty alleviation is imperative in the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters.
Each country bears the primary responsibility for protecting its people, infrastructure, and other national assets from the impact of natural disasters.
The international community should demonstrate strong political determination required to mobilize adequate and make efficient use of existing resources, including financial, scientific and technological means, in the field of natural disaster reduction, bearing in mind the needs of the developing countries, particularly the least developed countries.
The Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction conference was held in Kobe, Japan from 18 to 22 January 2005. This conference took on particular poignancy, as it came almost 10 years to the day after the Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe and less than a month after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Japan's long history of severe natural disasters, prominence in international humanitarian aid and development and its scientific achievements in monitoring dangerous natural phenomena also made it a suitable conference venue.
The upcoming conference had not garnered much attention, but due to the 26 December, Indian Ocean tsunami, the attendance grew dramatically and the international media focused on the event. Japan's Emperor Akihito opened the conference and welcomed 4,000 participants from around the world.
The World Conference adopted plans to put in place an International Early Warning Programme (IEWP), which had first been proposed at the Second International Conference on Early Warning in 2003 in Bonn, Germany.
The goal of the World Conference was to find ways to reduce the toll of disasters through preparation, and ultimately to reduce human casualties. Due to the proximity to the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, developing a global tsunami warning system was high on the agenda. Other topics included:
pledges to reduce disaster damage
healthcare after disaster
early warning systems
safe building standards
agree upon cost-effective preventative countermeasures
a global database on relief and reconstruction and a centre on water hazards
The Pacific Rim Tsunami Warning system is an example of a cost-effective warning system; its yearly operating cost is approximately US$4 million.
The yearly operating cost of a hypothetical global warning system is stimated at US$30 million. This cost, compared to the international aid donations of nearly US$8 billion for the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, clearly demonstrates the cost effectiveness of such a system.
Hyogo Framework for Action
The Hyogo Framework for Action (2005–2015): Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters was an outcome of the 2005 conference. The Hyogo Framework (HFA) was the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.
It was developed and agreed on with the many partners needed to reduce disaster risk – governments, international agencies, disaster experts and many others – bringing them into a common system of coordination. The HFA, which ran from 2005 to 2015, set five specific priorities for action.
Making disaster risk reduction a priority;
Improving risk information and early warning;
Building a culture of safety and resilience;
Reducing the risks in key sectors;
Strengthening preparedness for response.
Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030)
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) is an international document which was adopted by UN member states between 14th and 18th of March 2015 at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan and endorsed by the UN General Assembly in June 2015.
It is the successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005–2015), which had been the most encompassing international accord to date on disaster risk reduction.
The Sendai document emerged from three years' of talks, assisted by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, during which UN member states, NGOs, and other stakeholders made calls for an improved version of the existing Hyogo Framework, with a set of common standards, a comprehensive framework with achievable targets, and a legally-based instrument for disaster risk reduction.
Member states also emphasized the need to tackle disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption when setting the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in light of an insufficient focus on risk reduction and resilience in the original Millennium Development Goals.
The Sendai Framework sets four specific priorities for action:
Understanding disaster risk;
Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience;
Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to "Build Back Better" in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
To support the assessment of global progress in achieving the outcome and goal of the Sendai Framework, seven global targets have been agreed:
Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030, aiming to lower average per 100,000 global mortality between 2020-2030 compared to 2005-2015;
Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030, aiming to lower the average global figure per 100,000 between 2020-2030 compared to 2005-2015;
Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product by 2030;
Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030;
Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020;
Substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries through adequate and sustainable support to complement their national actions for implementation of the framework by 2030;
Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030.