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Global Events

BSN FP4014 Global Perspectives of Community and Public Service

Healthcare Professionals as Global Citizens

 This paper briefly describes the Indian Ocean earthquake that occurred in 2004, analyzing the impact of the disaster on the global society.  Technological advancements of the 21st century have made the world to be a global village.  However, what exactly does being a global citizen imply?  Being a global citizen involves an individual creating an all-inclusive identity whereby a person perceives the world as a community.  Such identity is forged in response to political, religious, economic, and social needs.  The ideology of global citizenship transcends geographical and political borders, placing broader emphasis on humanity.  Conceptually, all persons have civic rights and responsibilities that come with being human, embracing global philosophies rather than national beliefs.

As global citizens, health care professionals have an obligation not only to their countries of origin but to the world at large.  The responsibility assumed by health workers during times of global disasters bridges the divide between the industrialized and developing nations ensuring that the societal fabric does not dissipate in the face of humanitarian crisis.  Therefore, the role played by nurses alongside other health workers cannot be overlooked.  Nurses have previously demonstrated their dedication, compassion, expertise and courage in helping communities respond to and recover from catastrophic events (Titov et al., 2005).

BSN FP4014 Global Perspectives of Community and Public Service

Discussion on the Earthquake and the Resulting Tsunami

 The epicenter of the catastrophic earthquake was off the West coast of Sumatra Island, Indonesia.  The underwater event occurred when the Burma plate subducted the Indian plate.  The resulting earthquake was one of the severest ever-recorded in recent history.  A large section of fault surface broke-away resulting in a series of devastating tsunamis along coastal landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean in south East Asia, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and East Africa.  Casualties were reported in over fourteen countries.  While the tsunami happened hours after the earthquake in many places, most of the victims were caught by surprise because the countries did not have systems to warn coastal populations of the impending disaster.  The general population living around the ocean was not warned of the impending danger.  In Aceh province that lies on Sumatra Island, western Indonesia, waves of seawater twenty meters in height struck coastal settlements causing a devastating destruction of property, buildings, infrastructure, and human life (Lessig et al., 2006).

Response to the Event by the Local and International Communities

Widespread infrastructural damage called for a lot of aid from international organizations, to help mitigate the food and water shortage and economic losses.  The tropical climate around the disaster zones increased the risk of disease epidemics.  The biggest priorities for humanitarian agencies was provision of sanitation facilities and clean drinking water to contain the spread of contagious diseases including dysentery, cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and hepatitis A and hepatitis B.  Another concern was increased fatalities because of widespread hunger and disease.  Luckily, deaths were minimized following the prompt response by local and international humanitarian workers (Hyndman & Hyndman, 2011).

BSN FP4014 Global Perspectives of Community and Public Service

Bodies of the tsunami victims were buried hurriedly because people feared the spread of diseases.  Many resources were provided by both the local and international communities to assist those affected in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami.  For instance, international organizations such as World Food Programme provided food aid to people who were affected by the tsunami.  Aid teams responded swiftly, with the United States military for instance being quick to undertake relief and rescue operations (Lessig et al., 2006). 

 One of the initial tasks according to Hyndman & Hyndman (2011) was to assess whether the existing infrastructure could be safely used.  Additionally, local emergency personnel responded to drownings on the ground by rescuing survivors who were stuck on rooftops, or caught in debris.  At the same time, aid workers began identifying the stable buildings that could serve as shelters to accommodate temporarily the tsunami survivors.  Foreign embassies began establishing the whereabouts of their citizens because the disaster area was one that was frequented by international tourists.

The Role of Social Attitudes in Disaster Response

Social attitudes such as race, class, and gender influenced the response to the tsunami.  Communications infrastructure for issuing timely warnings had not been setup in all the affected countries due to poverty and insufficient resources.  Moreover, most of the buildings in the affected areas could not withstand the force of the tsunami.  The presence of many international tourists particularly from Europe, Australia, and United States of America affected how international organizations such as the World Health Organization responded to the event.  For instance, the death toll for Swedish and German tourists was over one thousand.  Therefore, the international community committed many resources because the effects of the disaster were on a global scale.  Relief efforts were hastened to minimize fatalities occurring due to difficulties in accessing healthcare.  Women for instance benefited from the response model because their reproductive needs were taken into account. It is therefore worth noting that disasters have varying degrees of impact on various social categories (Lessig et al., 2006).

BSN FP4014 Global Perspectives of Community and Public Service

Barriers Faced by the People Impacted by the Event in Accessing Health Care Services

Poverty and insufficient resources was one of the main barriers, denying patients access to health care.  The number of local healthcare workers and facilities in South East Asia at the time of the event was insufficient.  Existing hospitals were overwhelmed for days after the tsunami dissipated.  The aftermath of the tsunami underscored the need for health care facilities to plan for the worst.  Given the enormous power of the tsunami, existing infrastructure in coastal areas of countries like Thailand, Maldives, and Sri Lanka were obliterated.  Roads, power lines, and airstrips were destroyed cutting off the affected areas from aid efforts.  Rescue workers had to use helicopters, which were also limited, to assist people in affected areas.  Debris covered roads also slowed down search and rescue efforts by hampering the movement of emergency response teams (Hyndman & Hyndman, 2011).

The Role of International and Humanitarian Organizations in Providing Health Care Services

Organizations such as the World Food Programme provided food aid to over a million people affected by the tsunami and in danger of starvation.  According to the United States Agency for International Development, the United States set aside additional funds to ensure continued support to victims of the tsunami.  The United States later increased their contribution to an estimated $950 million in 2005.  Billions of dollars in medical and humanitarian aid would be needed according to aid officials. The Sri Lankan government in 2005 argued that foreign individuals and humanitarian organizations had been extremely generous in the wake of the disaster.  The public gave considerable donations to various charity organizations.  For instance, people in the United Kingdom donated an estimated US$600,000,000 considerably outweighing the government’s donation.  All the funds donated would go towards ensuring access to clean water, sanitation and health care (Titov et al., 2005).

The Role of Nursing in Providing Health Care Services

After the disaster occurred, affected communities depended on public health agencies and medical practitioners including nurses to provide health services.  Many nurses expressed willingness to report to work in the disaster areas.  The health organizations ensured that nurses took safety precautions such as wearing protective equipment in the disaster zones.  In addition, diplomatic documentation was prepared for the nursing professionals who were willing to be involved in provision of medical services.  In the days following the tragic tsunami in 2004, nurses worked alongside other health care professionals to provide medical aid to the victims.  This included basic first aid and other clinical procedures to the injured.  Another role of nurses in the catastrophic event was to ensure the safety of vulnerable people, especially high-risk categories such as the elderly, women, children, and people with disabilities that were affected by the tsunami (Titov et al., 2005).


The past decade has been characterized by several overwhelming disasters such as tropical storms, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes.  Nurses from affected countries have always stepped in to provide emergency care in hospitals and in the field addressing public health concerns, conducting health education and helping to save lives (Khankeh et al., 2007).

BSN FP4014 Global Perspectives of Community and Public Service


Hyndman, J., & Hyndman, J. (2011). Dual disasters: Humanitarian aid after the 2004 tsunami. Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press.

Khankeh, H. R., Mohammadi, R., & Ahmadi, F. (2007). Health care services at time of natural disasters: a qualitative study. Iran Journal of Nursing, 20(51), 85-96.

Lessig, R., Thiele, K., & Edelmann, J. (2006, April). Tsunami 2004—experiences, challenges and strategies. In International Congress Series, 1288, 747-749. Elsevier.

Titov, V., Rabinovich, A. B., Mofjeld, H. O., Thomson, R. E., & González, F. I. (2005). The global reach of the 26 December 2004 Sumatra tsunami. Science, 309(5743), 2045-2048.

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