WHO develops health sector response plan for the Horn of Africa humanitarian crisis
29 July 2011 - The World Health Organization (WHO) will require US$ 29.5 million to finance the prevention and mitigation of disease in the Horn of Africa drought affected areas. The health of 12.4 million people is at risk as a result of widespread malnutrition and disease following the worst drought in the region in decades. The situation is intensified by the ongoing conflict in Somalia which has led to mass population displacements, as people flee both drought and warfare.
A major health concern is the devastating link between malnutrition and disease in populations already weakened by displacement, insecurity and poor health and immunization status. Malnutrition increases both the risk for and severity of infectious diseases, and infectious diseases can exacerbate malnutrition. Severe malnutrition, when combined with serious medical complications, becomes an extreme medical emergency that requires intensive care in specialized units (Stabilization Centres) to avoid high mortality.
This destructive cycle can be broken by a combination of nutritional support, management of acute malnutrition and prevention and treatment of disease. Swift detection and control of disease outbreaks and proper monitoring of the population’s health status can help prevent the risk of infectious diseases, making surveillance systems of epidemic prone diseases essential.
As lead agency of the Global Health Cluster, WHO has been helping Ministries of Health and health partners deliver critical health care services, scaling up surveillance systems in all the affected countries and organizing the cross-border collaborative response. With UNICEF, WHO has conducted mass immunization campaigns in Kenya and Somalia.
In consultation with partners, WHO has finalized a Strategic Plan to support the scaling up of the overall humanitarian health response in the drought affected areas. Based on the Plan’s comprehensive and multisectoral approach, WHO will support the delivery of a package of life-saving interventions and help:
- Coordinate health response activities at sub-regional, national and sub-national levels;
- Prevent and control communicable diseases, including through the strengthening of early warning and response systems (EWARN) for epidemic-prone diseases;
- Provide medicines, medical supplies and technical assistance in order to support basic health care services for the affected population;
- Provide technical assistance for enhanced management of medical complications of severe acute malnutrition.
WHO’s Country Offices will provide technical, financial and logistics support to Ministries of Health and partners to implement these activities. WHO will use the Polio surveillance officers currently on the ground in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and recruit additional international staff to work with health authorities to strengthen disease surveillance systems in countries and at cross-border posts.
The scale of the emergency indicates that both the numbers of people affected by this crisis and the support needed will continue to increase. Currently, WHO’s emergency health response and the health sector as a whole are severely under-funded. A total of US$ 6 136 953 (Djibouti 264 290, Ethiopia 697 003, Kenya 576 914, Somalia 4 598 746 and Uganda 0) has been received so far. WHO calls on donors for US$ 29.5 million to respond to the health aspects of the Horn of Africa crisis.
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