Humanitarian Health Action

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

What is the Health Cluster?

When emergencies occur, coordination is necessary. No one organization can respond to a health crisis alone. The Global Health Cluster is a platform for organizations to work in partnership to ensure collective action results in more timely, effective and predictable response to health emergencies. WHO is the Cluster Lead Agency.

The Health Cluster currently has 48 humanitarian partner agencies at the global level and approximately more than 300 in countries. Currently 24 countries have an active Health Cluster. These Health Clusters are working to meet the health needs of approximately 70.7 million people worldwide.

The Global Health Cluster exists to support Health Clusters countries, and it can make a difference by: providing the right expertise at the right place at the right time; building the capacity of Health Cluster Coordinators; gathering and disseminating sound and relevant information to guide partners’ response; identifying and addressing gaps in technical knowledge and available guidance to ensure the health response follows global best practices and standards; and, promoting and advocating for the importance of humanitarian health action on the global stage, to help ensure that Health Clusters receive the political and financial support they need.

The cluster approach was developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee as part of the humanitarian reform in 2005, to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian response by building partnerships. Clusters are groups of humanitarian organizations, both UN and non-UN, in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action (e.g. water, health and logistics) with clear responsibilities for coordination. The aim of the cluster approach is to strengthen system-wide preparedness and technical capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies by ensuring that there is predictable leadership and by enhancing the accountability and transparency of humanitarian response.