The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), are jointly holding the H.E.L.P. (Health Emergencies in Large Populations) course in India, which begins today and will run for the next two weeks.
The focus of the course is to equip professionals with essential principles and skills in order to respond in effective and respectful ways to disaster situations, using a public health approach and ethics in the practice of relief activities. Emphasis will be placed on a public health approach, disaster preparedness and response, recovery and humanitarian action during disasters.
Lauding the initiative which is a result of partnership between top national and global institutes, Ms. Mary Werntz, Head of the Regional Delegation of the ICRC in New Delhi, affirms that “the course contributes to setting up high technical and ethical standards in the practice of humanitarian action, and to develop collaboration between academic and humanitarian sectors.”
It also aims at “developing knowledge, attitudes and skills, based on scientific evidence, best practices, field experience and ethics, in order for humanitarian actors to take the most appropriate decisions to meet essential needs and act in an effective and humane way, as well as to adjust their action based on results,” she further added.
The HELP course is expected to address the principles and practice of humanitarian relief in disasters, violence and complex crises affecting populations with regional or international scope. It was created in 1986 by the ICRC, in partnership with the World Health Organization and the University of Geneva. Since 1990, the course has been organized in other countries, in a partnership between the ICRC, a university and a national society of the Red Cross or Red Crescent Society in the hosting country and / or a public health institution.
According to Dr. D Prabhakaran, Vice President, Public Health Foundation of India, the course is both timely and relevant, because”the disaster vulnerability of the part of world in which we live – the South Asian region – is immense and cannot be over-emphasised. This fact is underscored by various disasters that have struck, ranging from the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, up to the most recent ones in Nepal and Afghanistan which crippled existing structures and systems even as hundreds and thousands await rescue and relief assistance, typically, situations of health emergencies in large populations. A specialised training programme such as the H.E.L.P Course will no doubt enhance the effectiveness of professionals during these mass scale disasters.”
Since its inception 29 years ago, around 150 H.E.L.P courses have been organised in 22 countries for 4,000 professionals in all. It is currently organised in 12 countries, attracting about 260 participants every year. It adopts problem solving and participatory teaching based on concrete situations and decision taking, group work in problem solving, simulations of disasters and presentations by the participants. The focus on public health approach is relevant to a wide range of professionals, including health professionals, operational managers, technicians, logisticians, lawyers, policy makers and leaders in humanitarian organisations.