Emergencies

5 reasons to support WHO’s global response to Zika virus

Zika virus and its complications represent a new type of public health threat that requires a unique and integrated strategy. WHO/PAHO and 14 partners need a combined amount of US$122.1 million for the global response plan.

1. WHO is the only agency with universal legitimacy in matters of international health, to lead and coordinate the response to Zika.

Within 10 days of the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 1 February 2016, WHO/PAHO worked with 23 partners to develop a Zika Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan covering the period to June 2016. The Response Plan has now been updated to cover July 2016 to December 2017. Today, more than 60 partners are engaged in the response, which is coordinated from WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

2. WHO helps countries develop and strengthen health and social services for individuals, families and communities affected by Zika.

Microcephaly can be a devastating diagnosis for an expecting woman, her partner, and her family. WHO’s strategic response to Zika places a greater focus on expanding the capacity of health systems to prevent and manage medical complications caused by Zika virus infection.

Babies with microcephaly work on their motor skills with the help of occupational therapists.
Babies with microcephaly work on their motor skills with the help of occupational therapists.
PAHO/WHO/H. Ruiz

“We encourage babies with microcephaly to do things they cannot yet do,” says Consuelo Figueira, occupational therapist at the Lessa de Andrade polyclinic in Recife, Brazil. “In the polyclinic, I work on the overall stimulation of the child. We assist in making the movements the children need to make and can’t because of the condition. We always use stimulation, with playful, interesting objects.”

3. WHO fast-tracks the availability of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and public health guidance.

WHO has been advancing what we know about Zika and complications and continues to do so. Since February 2015, WHO convened 250 experts to produce guidance and set research priorities, including:

  • 17 guidance documents for national authorities and health workers - from aircraft disinsection to Zika-related pregnancy management
  • Launching the Zika Open platform that gives early access to Zika-related research papers that are awaiting publication in peer-reviewed journals
  • WHO has identified research activities in 5 areas where the Organization is best placed to provide international leadership and to leverage its convening power
Vainoana Lamu is an assistant lab technician in Vaiola Hospital.
WHO/J. Rivaca

On 1 February 2016, the Ministry of Health declared a Zika virus outbreak in the Kingdom of Tonga, a group of 169 islands scattered over the southern Pacific Ocean. The Ministry of Health, with support from partners, such as WHO, immediately started to implement its Zika virus infection response plan. Vainoana, pictured above, makes sure that blood samples from pregnant women with Zika symptoms are collected, stored and shipped properly to designated laboratories.

4. WHO works to prevent adverse health outcomes through mosquito control, risk communication and community engagement.

WHO/PAHO/J. Cogan

This group of girl volunteers at their "Cruzada Social" Technical Institute, Barranquilla, Colombia, makes sure that the school stays free from mosquitoes that transmit dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Every day, they inspect the perimeter of their school to ensure mosquito breeding sites are properly removed.

5. WHO communicates vital information to decision-makers

Timely, evidence-based and actionable information has been flowing smoothly to policy-makers, health workers, researchers, partners and the general public.

Follow @WHO and @pahowho on Twitter for the latest updates.

By mid-May 2016, Zika tweets on @WHO had been seen 32 million times and the Zika virus and complications web pages viewed over 4.5 million times.

This page links all WHO information to its response on the Public Health Emergency of International Concern