Humanitarian Health Action

Emergency health action programme for South Asia

Emergency health support strategy

Taking advantage of WHO’s long established knowledge of prevalent conditions and partnerships with national and local authorities in all the disaster-affected countries in the region, and the initial results of assessments underway, WHO’s preliminary strategy for the first 100 days (approximate period till end of March 2005) is summarized below.

The overall purpose of WHO emergency support to national health authorities and health sector partners is to protect the health of survivors and other vulnerable affected people affected by the disaster. This is being mediated through the following major objectives:

  • Monitoring public health to provide early warning of emerging health threats and to enable the timely organization of any necessary response.
  • Replacing lost assets, infrastructure, and supplies that are crucial to meeting additional health needs consequent to the disaster, as well as the reactivation of key previously-available health services.
  • Providing technical expertise to health authorities to enable key gaps to be filled;
  • Establishing and sustaining effective regional, national, and local health coordination arrangements, to enable efficient deployment of assistance resources;
  • Ensuring adequate up to date communications on the health situation is available to all local and international stakeholders;
  • Refining health needs assessments over the coming period, and facilitating early recovery and rehabilitation.

WHO support intends to target health coverage for 4 million people in the region, including 2 million internally displaced and 100,000 injured. As detailed and geographically specific assessments become available, the above objectives will be refined into specific priority activities. Emerging priorities include technical assistance for the provision of safe drinking water, the setting-up or reactivation of communicable disease surveillance and response systems, and initial actions required to re-establish the basic health care system, including hospital based care.

This WHO Emergency Programme for Southeast Asia is being organized from the WHO South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) in New Delhi, in partnership with the Department for Health Action in Crisis at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, and WHO Country Offices in the region. Technical expertise from all the WHO family including technical departments, other regional and country offices, have been mobilized.

The in-country response will be made possible through establishing an operational platform for WHO activities. During this 100 day period, WHO will focus on operational responses in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Maldives, and strengthening the support available from the WHO SEA Regional Office. Emergency Management Units (EMU) will be established in the WHO Country Teams, headed by an Emergency Coordinator who will work under the supervision of the WHO Representatives Office. The location of the team will be agreed country by country; in Indonesia it is anticipated that the team will be located in Aceh, on premises shared with other UN agencies. In Sri Lanka and Maldives, it is anticipated that the EMUs will be located in or near the WHO Representatives Office. Small, mobile 'response' teams consisting of technical expertise in epidemiology, surveillance and environmental health, health system development and logistics will work in affected communities using the EMU as their base.