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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.100 n.12 Pretoria Dec. 2010




Disaster preparedness - looking forward



To the Editor: I refer to the article 'Haiti: The South African perspective'1 in the SAMJ of August 2010.

It is timeous that the authors have opened the debate on the South African medical rescue response to disasters, particularly at home and on our continent. The problems are succintly set out, real and need to be addressed meaningfully and rapidly. While the challenges are clear, the way forward as suggested in the article is less so. Given the less than organised, if praiseworthy, efforts of the two organisations mentioned in the article, it seems to be compounding the issue by suggesting that the future disaster response be placed under the auspices of the Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa (EMSSA) - another non-statutory body.

South Africa, as one of the most developed countries on the continent, will be expected internationally to respond meaningfully to natural and other disasters in Africa. To be able to do this will at least require government approval and resource support if there is to be a rapid and effective deployment of medical rescue assistance.

At the end of the day, most of the material and human resources required either belong to or work for one or other government department, provincial and national, including a large number of volunteers. In this particular context, I believe the National Department of Health in conjunction with those provinces that possess the requisite assets, which will include departments of emergency medicine, should take the lead. Together they successfully mobilised for the 2010 Soccer World Cup - surely an African disaster response is no less deserving of this kind of effort.


A G Mac Mahon

Cape Town


1. Van Hoving DJ, Smith WP, Kramer EB, de Vries S, Docrat F, Wallis LA. Haiti: The South African perspective. S Afr Med J 2010;8:513-515.         [ Links ]

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