Humanitarian Health Action

WHO humanitarian chief meets Ethiopian Health Minister, health partners in Addis Ababa

The World Health Organization's top humanitarian relief official today welcomed major health achievements that have been made in Ethiopia. Dr Eric Laroche also committed WHO to supporting health partners to strengthen Ethiopia's emergency preparedness and improve conditions for people confronted by the food security crisis, cross-border population displacement and communicable diseases.

Dr Laroche, the Assistant Director General for WHO's Health Action in Crises Cluster, made his comments during a meeting in Addis Ababa with Ethiopia's State Minister for Health, Dr Shiferaw Teklemariam, and WHO's Representative to Ethiopia, Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traore.

"I am grateful for the support that Ethiopian authorities and our local and international health partners have provided in their joint-response to the health challenges many Ethiopians are facing," said Dr Laroche, who is also heads the WHO team contributing to the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. "WHO wants to help these health actors expand and strengthen these efforts so we build on the health gains that have been made and improve the level of health and nutritional care available to the population."

Two major health successes that WHO has supported Ethiopian health authorities and partners to achieve have been the control of the meningitis and acute watery diarrhoeal diseases. "By working together, we were able to contain a major meningitis outbreak and provide at least 2 million doses of vaccines," she said. "We have also seen a 50% reduction from 2006 to now in the number of people who have died after contracting acute watery diarrhoea."

"These gains were achieved due to the development of a preparedness plan that showed health providers how to be ready to respond to such communicable diseases," Dr Nafo-Traore said. "WHO worked with the government to implement this plan and raise awareness about the crucial importance of being prepared for such preventable diseases. What is vital now, though, is that we secure more financial and technical support to both consolidate these gains and improve upon them."

WHO has placed increased emphasis on strengthening community-level health facilities by preparing guidelines, training and health materials to make local health workers more able to respond to the various health challenges they face.

Dr Teklemariam welcomed the visit of Dr Laroche, who before arriving in Ethiopia travelled to Kenya where he met health authorities and partners who are responding to humanitarian health challenges in both Kenya and Somalia.

"Ethiopian authorities are undertaking major reform to the country's health system, particularly in regards to public health emergency management, such as preparedness, early warning, response and recovery. As well, the health extension programme that includes nutritional programmes and the control of communicable diseases are being strengthened," Dr Teklemariam said. "We welcome the support provided by WHO and other international partners to continue the rapidly-required reform to our health system."

For further information contact:

Paul Garwood
Communications Officer
Health Action in Crises
World Health Organization

Dr Zerihun Tadesse
Director of Diseases Prevention and Control
Ministry of Health, Ethiopia
+251 (0) 911 401498