The strength of the human spirit of all those who have been affected by disasters, and their ability to bounce back to move on with their lives serves as an inspiration. But to think of all the people who did not receive help when they needed it the most, couldn’t get medical treatment in time, who ran out of basic medicines and drugs — who lost not just their homes, but also their children and their loved ones — leaves one with a heavy heart.


The disaster vulnerability of the part of world in which we live – the South Asian region – cannot be overemphasised. The 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the devastating Tsunami of 2004 across the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Kashmir (on both sides of the border) in 2005, the Uttarakhand floods in 2013 and the most recent earthquakes in Nepal — these are but some of the disasters that have wreaked havoc in cities and villages alike.

Disasters of such scale tend to cripple the existing structures and systems even as hundreds and thousands await rescue and relief assistance — typically, these are situations of health emergencies in large populations. However, despite limited means and constraints we see medical practitioners and health workers tirelessly serve the affected populations in such eventualities. Resources are stretched, time critical and often, their own capacities diminished.

Thus, the need for a specialised training programme is more urgent than ever. One that comprehensively addresses all disaster scenarios and equips medical and health professionals in key decision-making positions in the field to take charge of the situation and shift the gears when time comes. It is necessary for them to be prepared in terms of basic supplies and relief materials, but equally important to be good managers who can prioritise work and coordinate action at the ground level. What is also crucial for them is to evaluate the linkages between humanitarian action, health, environment, nutrition, as well as their own safety.

In light of this, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Public Health Foundation of India have partnered to launch the H.E.L.P. course (download brochure) in India in October this year. Health Emergencies in Large Populations or the H.E.L.P. course of the ICRC has received the committed support of the Indian Red Cross Society, World Health Organisation and National Institute of Disaster Management.

The two-week course from 29 October – 8 November is open to all health professionals from the South Asia and SAARC region. The last date for filled in application forms is 20 September 2015.