Earthquake in Abruzzo Region of Italy Earthquake in Abruzzo Region of Italy

WHO underlines safe hospitals message on World Health Day

Copenhagen, 8 April 2009

As rescue workers continue to search the rubble, the full scale of the earthquake and its aftershocks that struck the town of L’Aquila and surrounding villages is becoming clearer. Latest figures from the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Policy and the President of the Abbruzzo Region indicate that 251 people have died, 1179 were injured and 25 000 have lost their homes and are temporarily displaced.

“Our thoughts are with those affected by the earthquake in the Abruzzo Region of Italy. This is a tragic reminder of the absolute need to ensure that hospitals can function when the worst happens”, says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
The main hospital in L’Aquila, San Salvatore, a regional referral hospital was completed in 1999. It has been seriously damaged by the earthquake, with parts of its structure affected. Health workers at the hospital state that the immediate emergency health response was well coordinated, and the hospital damage caused no casualties. The hospital treated patients in the hours after the earthquake, despite its reduced functionality. It has now been completely evacuated as a precaution.

On World Health Day, 7 April, WHO focused on the importance of ensuring that hospitals are better designed and constructed and health workers well trained to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, floods and conflicts. Natural disasters in the WHO European Region are increasing in number and severity. In 1990–2008, over 47 million people in the Region were affected and 130 000 people died.

The earthquake in Italy highlights the need for health facilities to be designed, built and located safely, for health workers to be trained and prepared, and for the health response systems to be coordinated and involved with civil protection and emergency health providers.

Governments around the world, public health authorities and others who operate hospitals and health care facilities can take six steps to:

  1. assess the safety of hospitals;
  2. protect and train health workers in emergencies;
  3. plan for emergency response;
  4. design and build resilient hospitals;
  5. adopt national policies and programmes for safe hospitals; and
  6. protect equipment, medicines and supplies.

For more information, contact:

Technical information

Dr Gerald Rockenschaub
Regional Adviser, Disaster Preparedness & Response
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 39 17 15 51 Mobile: +45 21794207

Media information

Faith Kilford
Conference Communications Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark Tel.: +45 39 17 12 19
Mobile: +45 21194378