Disasters invariably reveal the frailty of human health. Derived from the Middle French word désastre and from the Italian disastro, disaster is an emotive noun that signifies an unfortunate event that is calamitous and distressing in character. Disaster can strike at an individual or family level: a shock diagnosis of cancer, for example. But it is more often used to refer to a large-scale event that devastates a community or a country, raising profound questions not only about life and livelihood but also about who is responsible for curbing public health threats and for protecting the health of a country’s citizens.

This essay may be found on page 63 of the printed volume.

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