In April this year, exactly one year on from the devastating Gorkha earthquake, a conference was held to discuss the lessons learned from the disaster and how the health care sector can become more resilient in the face of natural and manmade disasters.

The conference was organized by Health Care Without Harm; GGHH member and HCWH’s strategic partner in Nepal, Health Care Foundation Nepal, GGHH member in Taiwan, Tzu Chi Foundation; Nepal’s Ministry of Health; Association of Private Health Institutions; the Association of Non-Government Hospitals; and the World Health Organization. It brought together over one hundred and sixty participants, representing the Nepali and foreign health care sectors, and the international healthcare, environmental and disaster response communities.

Delegates concluded that environmentally friendly technologies have the potential to assist health care facilities to stay operational during crises, as well as reducing the amount of dangerous pollution they emit. Up to twenty three percent of deaths globally are linked to environmental factors, including air and water pollution.

The delegates’ conclusions have now been drawn together into a declaration that calls for environmental performance to be considered as an indicator or benchmark in the design of health care systems and emergency planning for risk reduction.

In Kathmandu, after the earthquake, hospitals operating sustainable health care waste management systems continued to treat waste with minimal disruption, with one major trauma center treating over twice the normal amount of waste. Segregating, autoclaving and recycling saves resources, eliminates the carcinogenic dioxin emissions from incinerators, and minimises carbon footprint.

Sourcing food locally and reducing meat consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and promotes health. As well as reducing pollution, renewable energy and independent water systems reduce the dependence of health care facilities on infrastructure which can be disrupted during emergencies.

Mahesh Nakarmi, Director of Health Care Foundation Nepal, and one of the conference organizers, said “Nepal is recovering from this disaster but we need to build back better to protect against future threats, including earthquakes and climate change. Improving the environmental performance of the health care sector is an important part of this strategy and this Declaration helps show the way it can be done.”

To read the declaration, click here.