Humanitarian Health Action


Monthly Highlights - July 2011

Malnourished Somali child in Dahaab refugee camps, Kenya (2011).
WHO/Pieter Desloovere

“All major emergencies, by definition, threaten human life and public health. They often result in food shortages, impair or jeopardize the nutritional status of a community, and cause excess mortality in all age groups. Nutrition is therefore a key public heath concern in emergency management.

It is important that nutrition-related interventions be viewed and undertaken as an integral past of a comprehensive approach to emergency management in affected areas. This also implies the inclusion of nutrition in overall emergency preparedness.

Drought is often the proximate cause of food shortage. However it is rarely the sole, or even the basic, cause. Emergency preparedness must deal with the deeper causes and, when needed, with the chain of results following food shortage.

Ensuring adequate nutrition in emergencies compels a holistic and proactive approach, which implies more than food distribution and protection of health. Intersectoral and comprehensive action is called for the areas of environment, population, economic and human development, land and water management, food production and trade, services, human rights, governance, empowerment, and growth of the civil society.

The health sector has a precise role to play in all these areas, providing education, advocacy, and technical expertise to ensure vulnerability reduction and preparedness for appropriate nutrition-related relief, treatment and prevention of malnutrition, and ultimately promotion of nutrition in the context of broader health, community rehabilitation and development policy.”

From The management of nutrition in major emergencies. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2000.

This month’s Highlights begins with an overview of the health consequences of the crisis in the Horn of Africa and of the health sector’s response. It continues with updates on WHO’s activities in two other critical emergencies: Libya and Yemen. The next section, dedicated to resource mobilization, presents graphic information on the funding received by WHO and the health sector during the first part of 2011 through CAP and flash and other appeals.

Lastly, the Highlights introduces the new kit for the inpatient management of severe acute malnutrition with medical complications in children and the Regional Office for the Western Pacific Health Cluster Toolkit 2011.