The World Health Organization is calling on nations to make their hospitals disaster proof.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan made the appeal in Beijing when addressing the opening ceremony of a World Health Day meeting.

She underscored the need to improve construction of hospitals so they can withstand emergencies like devastating earthquakes.

"The tragedy of major emergency or disasters is compounded when health facilities fail. When a hospital collapses or its functions are disrupted, lives that depend on emergency care can be lost."

The theme of the meeting is "Save Lives, Make hospitals safe in emergencies".

Chan also offered her condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Italy.

Parts of L'Aquila's main hospital were evacuated due to the risk of collapse, and only two operating rooms were in use.