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COPING WITH NATURAL DISASTERS: THE ROLE OF LOCAL HEALTH PERSONNEL AND THE COMMUNITY
( By A Working Guide (WHO - OMS, 1989) )

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Chapter 3.Temporary shelter and sanitation

When the disaster has made houses uninhabitable and there has been no evacuation of the area, temporary shelter must be arranged for those affected, who generally prefer to remain on the spot, in or near their property. It may happen that the population settles all over the place (waste ground, gardens, parks, squares, parking areas, sports grounds, etc.), using anything that comes to hand (planks, plastics, tents, cars, containers, boats, railway wagons, buildings under construction, schools, public buildings, etc.). The sanitary situation may then rapidly deteriorate and it becomes very difficult to assess requirements.

Communities exposed to the risk of disaster (and those that propose to give shelter to displaced persons) should select sites for temporary shelter (before a disaster strikes) and carry out the necessary preparatory work. The sites chosen for erecting shelters should be:


flood-proof, above high-water level,
preferably on a gentle slope to facilitate rainwater and waste water drainage,
not too close to the water table; otherwise the ground could become marshy in the rainy season,
protected against landslides and subsidence,
easily accessible, not far from the centre of population,
at a higher level than waste tips,
downstream from sources of drinking-water.

On the site of temporary shelter it is necessary to arrange water-supply points, latrines and waste tips.

During the first few days it is sometimes necessary to use tanker-trucks for transporting water but as soon as possible water-supply points should be established by sinking boreholes, digging wells or laying pipes. If there is a shortage, people will obviously congregate near supply points. There should be one for every 200/250 persons, but it is sometimes difficult to achieve this ratio.

The simplest method of installing latrines is to dig trenches about 2 metres deep and 80 cm wide (the length will vary) and cover them with planks, with seats or slabs for squatting. The opening should have a cover to stop flies getting in. The latrines should not be installed too far away from the temporary dwellings.


Figure

Rubbish tips should be arranged for disposing of solid waste, which will be burnt and covered with earth to keep flies and rodents away.

In laying out camps of temporary dwellings, geometric designs with shelters arranged in anonymous rows should be avoided. On the contrary, groupings of families and the spontaneous choice of neighbourhoods must be encouraged while keeping the sanitary situation under control. If the settlement is expected to be used for a long period, the plan should make provision for housing the local administration, the health centre or hospital and the school and as far as possible other community services and activities.

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