Guidance Note on Recovery: Health

24 Jun 2011


An analysis of the documented experiences of past and present recovery efforts on issues such as impact of disasters on the health sector, humanitarian assistance and relief.


There is currently an abundance of documents, plans and policies that address common issues faced in the mitigation, preparedness and relief phases of natural disaster management. Yet for disaster recovery planners and policy makers, there is no cohesive documented body of knowledge. It is conceded that preventive measures are vital to reducing the more costly efforts of responding to disasters. Nevertheless, in the post disaster situation, the availability of knowledge products reflecting past practices and lessons learned is critical for effective and sustainable recovery. Unquestionably, a wealth of experience and expertise exists within governments and organizations; however the majority of this knowledge is never documented, compiled, nor shared. Filling this knowledge gap is a key objective of the International Recovery Platform and The Guidance Note on Recovery: Health, along with its companion booklets, is an initial step in documenting, collecting and sharing disaster recovery experiences and lessons. IRP hopes that this collection of the successes and failures of past experiences in disaster recovery will serve to inform the planning and implementation of future recovery initiatives. The aim is not to recommend actions, but to place before the reader a menu of options.


The Guidance Note on Recovery: Health is primarily intended for use by policymakers, planners, and implementers of local, regional and national government bodies interested or engaged in facilitating a more responsive, sustainable, and risk‐reducing recovery process. Yet, IRP recognizes that governments are not the sole actors in disaster recovery and believes that the experiences collected in this document can benefit the many other partners working together to build back better.


The Guidance Note on Recovery: Health draws from documented experiences of past and present recovery efforts, collected through a desk review and consultations with relevant experts. These experiences and lessons learned are classified into four major issues:

1) Impacts of Disasters on the Health Sector

2) Humanitarian Assistance: Relief and Transition

3) Recovery Phase

4) Pre-Disaster Health Sector Recovery Preparedness

The materials are presented in the form of cases. The document provides analysis of many of the cases, highlighting key lessons and noting points of caution and clarification. The case study format has been chosen in order to provide a richer description of recovery approaches, thus permitting the reader to draw other lessons or conclusions relative to a particular context.

It is recognized that, while certain activities or projects presented in this Guidance Note have met with success in a given context, there is no guarantee that the same activity will generate similar results across all contexts. Cultural norms, socioeconomic contexts, gender relations and myriad other factors will influence the process and outcome of any planned activity. Therefore, the following case studies are not intended as prescriptive solutions to be applied, but rather as experiences to inspire, to generate contextually relevant ideas, and where appropriate, to adapt and apply. The purpose of this Guidance Note is to provide emergency planners and other officials in the health sector with guidance as to how the health sector in a country devastated by a disaster can be reconstructed and rehabilitated.

The International Recovery Platform (IRP) has developed the following definition for the Recovery phase, “The restoration, and improvement where appropriate, of facilities, livelihoods and living conditions of disaster‐affected communities, including efforts to reduce disaster risk factors. The recovery task of rehabilitation and reconstruction begins soon after the emergency phase has ended, and should be based on pre‐existing strategies and policies that facilitate clear institutional responsibilities for recovery action and enable public participation. Recovery programmes, coupled with the heightened public awareness and engagement after a disaster, afford a valuable opportunity to develop and implement disaster risk reduction measures and to apply the “build back better” principle.”

The focus of this Guidance Note is on the long term “Recovery” phase and the majority of the case studies included in this document are focused on recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects and issues.

However, this document does include a chapter that provides information and case studies concerning the humanitarian relief and transition phases in order to clearly differentiate the activities involved in these two phases from the recovery phase that is the primary focus of this Guidance Note.

A chapter on the impacts of disasters on health and well being of individuals and communities and the various components of the health sector in a community, region or nation is included.

A final chapter is included in this document that provides examples of pre‐disaster preparedness and hazard mitigation actions and measures that can be taken to reduce the impacts of future disasters on the health sector and better health workers to deal with future disasters.

A set of 9 Annexes are included at the end of this Guidance Note that provides more detailed information concerning the health sector in disasters. This document is comprised primarily of Case Studies taken from experiences in disasters from across the globe. These Cases provide real world examples of the impacts of disasters on the health sector, examples of actions taken in the immediate response/relief and transition phases after a disaster and a full range of examples of actions and activities that have taken place in the recovery phase. For each case Study included in this Guidance Note, lessons have been identified and presented as part of the presentation.

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