Humanitarian Health Action

Editorial

Monthly Highlights - February 2011

Children in a tent providing emergency health care during the Gaza crisis in 2009
Shareef Sarhan/WHO
Provision of emergency health care during the Gaza crisis 2009

The volume of work of WHO in health action in crises has quadrupled in two biennia, reaching the level of US$ 500 million during the period 2008–2009. This sum encompasses core technical activities for carrying out this type of work across the three levels of the Organization – amounting to close to US$ 100 million per biennium – as well as ad hoc operational activities related to emergency and humanitarian action implemented at national and sub national level – amounting to US$ 400 million per biennium. At the end of 2010, funding for the current biennium had reached more than 200 million, a sum consistent with past funding trends.

The size of the Health Action in Crises (HAC) “business “ represents today 12% of the total size of WHO “business” so it is not a marginal line of work for the Organization. As a matter of fact, in the more than 40 countries affected by emergencies and crises, this constitutes the central WHO “business”, sometimes for prolonged periods of time.

Whereas funding support for field activities is growing, funding for support activities, or “backstopping” activities, at global and regional level is increasingly difficult to obtain.

Budgets for core programmes in the HAC Cluster are dropping (US$17 million have been received for the period 2010–2011 down from US$ 26 million for 2008–2009), while funds for specified emergencies are increasing. It is expected that this major funding shortfall will continue.

If WHO is to maximize its potential capacity for health action in crises, it will have to have a far more committed approach to resource mobilization that would enhance the capacities of country and regional offices as well as the capacity for headquarters to back them up.

This month’s Highlights updates on the emergency health response to the sudden crisis in Libya. It also provides an overview of two long standing situations: Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territory.

The next section is dedicated to resource mobilization efforts in HAC, indicating that both resources and implementation rates have risen over the past few years. The Highlights then provides an update on logistics-related activities in 2010 and reports on a case study on the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in Liberia. Furthermore, it provides a summary of the Global Health Cluster position paper on civil-military coordination during humanitarian health action.

Finally it includes an update on relevant interagency issues and upcoming meetings.

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