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Myth #1: Disasters cause deaths at random.
Disasters tend to take a higher toll on the most vulnerable geographic areas (high-risk areas), generally those settled by the poorest people.
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Myth #2: Disasters bring out the worst in human behavior.
Although isolated cases of antisocial behavior exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.
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Myth #3: Dead bodies pose a health risk.
Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies pose no more risk of disease outbreak in the aftermath of a natural disaster than survivors.
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Myth #4: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.
Epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public.
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Myth #5: The fastest way to dispose of bodies and avoid the spread of disease is through mass burials or cremations. This can help create a sense of relief among survivors.
Survivors will feel more at peace and manage their sense of loss better if they are allowed to follow their beliefs and religious practices and if they are able to identify and recover the remains of their loved ones.
Myth #6: Disasters are random killers.
Disasters strike hardest at the most vulnerable group, the poor — especially women, children and the elderly.
Myth #7: Starving people can eat anything
It is widely held that people who are starving will be very hungry and eat any food that can be supplied. This attitude is inhumane and incorrect. Even if hungry initially, people often do not consume adequate quantities of unvaried and unfamiliar foods for long enough. More importantly, the starving people are often ill and may not have a good appetite. They will therefore languish in an emaciated state or get even sicker.
Even someone well-nourished would fail to thrive on the monotonous diets of three or so commodities (e.g. wheat, beans and oil) that is all that is available, month in, month out, to many refugees and displaced people. And this is aside from the micro-nutrient deficiencies that often develop. This misconception starts, in part, from a failure to agree on explicit objectives for food assistance — which should surely be to provide for health, welfare, and a reasonably decent existence and help in attaining and acceptable state of self-reliance and self-respect. Source: Lancet, Vol. 340, Nov 28, 1992.
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Reference: World Health Organization (WHO), “Humanitarian Health Action”. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/.
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