Although disaster-related deaths are overwhelmingly caused by the initial traumatic impact of the event, disaster preparedness plans should consider the health needs of the surviving disaster-affected populations. The health impacts associated with the sudden crowding together of large numbers of survivors, often with inadequate access to safe water and sanitation facilities, will require planning for both therapeutic and preventive interventions, such as rehydration materials, antibiotics and measles vaccination materials. Disaster response teams should be aware of and have access to the latest updated guidelines for communicable disease prevention and control, such as the WHO field manual on Communicable disease control in emergencies (34) and the Sphere project’s Humanitarian charter and minimum standards in disaster response (33).
The risk of outbreaks following natural disasters, though often incorrectly connected to the presence of dead bodies, is closely related to the size, health status and living conditions of the displaced population. The risk of transmission of endemic communicable diseases, such as ARI and diarrhoeal diseases, is increased in displaced populations due to associated crowding, inadequate water and sanitation and poor access to health care. Improved detection and response to communicable diseases is important in order to monitor the incidence of diseases, to document their impact and to help to better quantify the risk of outbreaks following natural disasters.