WHO supports consolidated appeal for humanitarian funds
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Excellencies, colleagues in humanitarian affairs, funding partners, ladies and gentlemen,
The World Health Organization leads the health cluster in the international system for humanitarian response. I am pleased to add our voice, and our experience, to support this appeal.
The safety, security, and survival of 50 million of the world’s most vulnerable people depend on protection from diseases. These include diseases aggravated by malnutrition, and diseases prone to outbreaks when living conditions are suddenly disrupted, or persistently miserable.
Equally important for health protection are more routine measures. Partners in the health cluster ensure that medicines are available for the continuing care of chronic conditions, children are immunized, and women can deliver their babies safely.
These needs pertain to sudden-onset disasters, but also to protracted humanitarian crises, often linked to conflict or persistent drought. For example, Somalia is entering its 20th year of crisis. Djibouti is suffering from four consecutive years of failed rainfall.
As you know, this is a consolidated appeal, representing the funding needs of more than 400 agencies and organizations. As you also know, we are collectively asking for the highest ever level of funds to support the humanitarian response next year.
We are looking ahead, but we also need to look back to events and lessons from 2010. These consolidated appeals are not just a request for funds. They operate as an inter-agency strategic instrument for more efficient planning and management.
During the year, procedures and methodologies for estimating needs and coordinating aid projects were constantly refined to reduce gaps and overlaps. These refinements add to the precision of funding requests and help ensure a good match between assessed needs and coordinated fast action on the ground.
This has been an extraordinary year. Not in terms of the number of humanitarian emergencies, which was somewhat lower than in recent years, but because of the two mega-disasters in Haiti and Pakistan.
The January earthquake in Haiti and the August floods in Pakistan completely overwhelmed domestic coping capacity. They stretched the resources of the international response to the limit.
Funds made available for these and other 2010 humanitarian crises set new records. This generosity is deeply appreciated and I want to thank all of you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us come back to sobering facts on the ground.
Sudden-onset disasters are frequently accompanied by fears of disease outbreaks, like cholera, typhoid fever, or measles. In many cases, such outbreaks can be averted. By establishing sensitive surveillance systems and rapid response capacity, WHO and its partners can often keep a bad situation from getting worse.
Not so for the mega-disaster in Haiti. WHO is deeply concerned about the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Health services and infrastructures in that country were already weak before the earthquake struck. Despite extensive international support, the country has by no means recovered.
A disease like cholera can easily gain a foothold in a country where infrastructures were badly damaged or destroyed, leaving little access to clean water, sanitation, health care and other basic services. WHO now considers the entire country at risk.
Of the 49 hospitals and clinics that served the areas worst-affected by the earthquake, 30 still need to be rebuilt. Functioning health facilities were already overwhelmed with routine needs before the first cholera cases were confirmed on 19 October.
It would be irresponsible for me to downplay the magnitude of this crisis or assure you that everything is under control. It is not.
The outbreak has not peaked. Cases and deaths continue to surge. Official estimates are underestimates. The country’s surveillance and reporting system is weak, leading to incomplete data collection and analysis.
Many people are dying of cholera before they reach a health facility. For those who reach hospitals, the fatality rate is alarmingly high.
Since cholera has not been known in Haiti for at least a century, local staff have little experience in managing cases, and local populations have no immunity to cholera, little knowledge, and great fear.
Much of the response capacity is concentrated in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and this capacity needs to expand urgently to rural areas.
An urgent, massive scaling up of operations is needed, not only for health care, but also for water and sanitation, nutrition, and camp coordination and management.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me emphasize one important point: people do not have to die from cholera. Cholera can be prevented and cured. More needs to be done to prevent cases and avert deaths through prompt access to treatment. We count on your support to make this possible.