Humanitarian Health Action

Questions and answers about WHO's role in Humanitarian Health Action

What is the role of WHO in crises?

The primary objective in an emergency, whether natural or man-made, is to reduce avoidable loss of life and the burden of disease and disability.

Every day, hundreds of millions of people face threats to health and livelihoods because local and national systems that support their health and lives are overwhelmed or too weak to withstand crises and extreme events.

WHO is committed to working better with Member States and other stakeholders so that suffering and death in crises are minimized and systems are protected and repaired. We want to help national authorities and communities to:

  • Prepare for crises by strengthening their overall capacity to manage all types of crises;
  • Mitigate against the effects of crises by taking measures to reduce the effects of disasters and crises on systems that support good public health;
  • Respond to crises by ensuring effective, efficient and timely action to address public health priorities so that lives are saved and suffering is reduced;
  • Recover from crises by ensuring that the local health system is back to functioning.

During crises, humanitarian health partners, led by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Health Custer under the leadership of WHO will empower humanitarian country teams to better address the health aspects and crises.

At all levels of WHO, whether it be in Country Offices, Regional Offices, and headquarters, the WHO network for Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response serves as a convener and conduit. It provides information and services, and mobilizes partners to agree on standards and courses of action.