Country focus

Detailed information of WHO offices in countries, territories and areas

In addition to the regional and Headquarters offices, WHO has 149 WHO offices in countries, territories and areas. Other WHO offices are: WHO Humanitarian Assistance Office, Pristina; West Bank and Gaza office; the US–Mexican Border Field Office in El Paso; the Office of the Caribbean Program Coordination in Barbados; and Northern Micronesia office.

Premises of WHO country offices

The majority (38%) of WHO country offices are located in independent premises either rented or owned by WHO, while 19% are located within ministries of health and 22% within United Nations common premises. Currently, 40% of WHO country offices are either owned or supported by the government/ministries of health.


Efforts to decentralize are aimed at getting closer to the ground (field) where decisions taken can be more responsive to actual needs. This is being done through various mechanisms. For example, three Intercountry Support Teams have been established in Harare (Zimbabwe), Libreville (Gabon) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) with the aim of enhancing the capacity of WHO to provide technical support to countries. In an effort to strengthen subregional technical cooperation in the Region of the Americas, some technical programmes have been decentralized from the regional office to countries.

Head of WHO office (HWO)

The Head of WHO Office (HWO) is the generic term used to represent the various categories of managers who are responsible for the WHO offices in countries, territories and areas. They are designated by the Director-General and by the respective Regional Directors. The HWO manages WHO core functions at country level and provides leadership in the following key functional areas: advocacy, partnership and representation; support to policy development and technical cooperation; and administration and management.

The HWOs include:

WHO Representatives

he WHO Representatives are designated by the Director-General and by the respective Regional Director. They represent the Organization, the Director-General and the Regional Director in the country of assignment. They are all international staff except the WHO Representative in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, who is a national. In the WHO African, Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asian and Western Pacific Regions these staff are called WHO Representatives. In the WHO Region for the Americas, where they represent both PAHO and WHO, they are called PAHO/WHO Representatives. In the WHO European Region, the WHO Representatives are called WHO Representative/Head of Country Office.

Heads of Country Office

Heads of Country Office are found only in the European Region. They are nominated by the Regional Director of EURO and are all national with the exception of one international Head of Country Office in Serbia. In addition, there are WHO Representatives/Heads of Country Office in the following countries: Albania, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

Liaison Officers

There are Liaison Officers in two regions: In the WHO African Region they are called WHO Liaison Officers. There are three WHO Liaison Officers (two nationals in Algeria and Mauritius and one international in Seychelles). They are responsible for the WHO country office and report directly to the Regional Director of AFRO. In the WHO Western Pacific Region, they are called Country Liaison Officers and are all international staff. Five of the Country Liaison Officers (i.e. in Micronesia (Federated States of), Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu) report to the WHO Representative to the South Pacific countries.

Heads of Office

There are Heads of Office in: the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, in the West Bank and Gaza office in the Palestinian Self-Rule Areas; the WHO European Region, in the WHO Office, Pristina.

Chief of Field Office

There is a Chief of Field Office in the WHO Region of the Americas, in the United States–Mexico Border, Field Office located in El Paso, Texas, United States of America.

Programme Coordinator

There is a Programme Coordinator in the WHO Region of the Americas, in the Office for Caribbean Program Coordination located in Barbados. Note : In the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, there are Desk Officers for Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. They are based at the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean in Cairo, Egypt and are not considered Heads of WHO Offices.

Global induction of Head of WHO Offices

The role of the Heads of WHO Offices is central to the overall impact of WHO's work at country level, hence the development of their capacities represents a high priority for the Organization. Based on the recommendation of the Global Policy Group, a HWO Orientation and Development Programme (HODP) is being developed.The aim of this programme is to adequately prepare all newly appointed HWOs and reassigned HWOs for their diplomatic, political and managerial responsibilities as well as enhancing their technical, communication and negotiation skills. One component of this programme is the global face-to-face induction event. Two global inductions have been conducted within the HODP to date (23 participants in April 2009 and 22 participants in April 2010). Prior to the HODP, the last global induction took place in 2003. WHO core functions and WHO country teams WHO will fulfill its priorities through its six core functions set out in the Eleventh General Programme of Work. In the present survey, country teams were asked to indicate the level of responsibility the country team has with regard to each core function, bearing in mind the proportion on time/resources devoted to each. Core function 1 Providing leadership on matters critical to health and engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed Core function 2 Shaping the research agenda and stimulating the generation, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge Core function 3 Setting norms and standards and promoting and monitoring their implementation Core function 4 Articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options Core function 5 Providing technical support, catalysing change and building sustainable institutional capacity Core function 6 Monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends