WHO Strengthens Humanitarian Relief Work
11 June 2008 - The World Health Organization has intensified its humanitarian relief work across the globe, launching 40% more emergency response operations and coordinating the work of multiple health players involved in crises.
These were among the messages discussed on 11 June during the WHO Humanitarian Forum 2008 at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Representatives from more than 40 countries, United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations attended the event.
From January-June 2008, WHO launched 12 emergency response operations in different regions of the world, compared to an average of 17 per year for 2006-2007, marking a more than 40% increase.
Climate change, conflicts, natural disasters, geopolitical emergencies such as the food price crisis, and demographic shifts (increased population movements to urban areas, larger population) are posing increasing health risks to the world's population, and require a committed, coordinated global response.
"WHO is being called on more and more to respond immediately to crises in the field," said Dr Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Health Action in Crises Cluster. "The risks of climate change, wars and the health concerns associated with the food price crisis means that WHO will have a larger role to play in the future when it comes to responding to emergencies, particularly in Africa and the poorest parts of the world."
In the Humanitarian Reform process launched in 2005, WHO was designated the head of the Global Health Cluster, which coordinates the response to health crises and emergencies by all parties involved in the field. This role has led to WHO intensifying its rapid response, recovery and preparedness roles when it comes to dealing with the health implications of natural disasters, conflicts and other emergencies.
Rollouts of the Health Cluster have taken place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Uganda and Somalia. Implementation is ongoing in Kenya, Guinea, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Colombia. And it is under discussion in Afghanistan, Burundi, Haiti, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Nepal and Niger.
WHO plans to intensify its core WHO humanitarian work in its six regions and support country operations in its three main humanitarian relief areas - immediate emergency response, ongoing crises and transitions, and preparedness and capacity-building