Humanitarian Health Action


Monthly Highlights - May 2011

Children climbing on the side of a truck.
Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

Since 1 April 2011, WHO’s work in emergency preparedness and response has become part of the new Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration (PEC) Cluster headed by Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward. The establishment of the new Cluster and the ensuing restructuring of WHO’s work in emergencies is motivated by the combination of WHO’s agenda of reform and the ongoing reform of international humanitarian action.

In the context of WHO’s agenda of reform, the work of the new Cluster is fundamental to the Organization’s core business, particularly the major functions of responding to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies and generating evidence on health trends and determinants among vulnerable populations and those affected by emergencies. The programmes which are being brought together in this new Cluster share the common, primary purpose of directly supporting the WHO Regional Offices to improve outcomes in countries.

In terms of the humanitarian reform agenda, the major drivers for the restructuring of WHO’s work in emergencies are the strengthening role of WHO as lead agency of the Global Health Cluster; the increasing international attention to and demand for emergency preparedness/disaster risk reduction work; the expected reforms under the Inter-Agency Standing Committee; the increasingly complex combination of strategies required in protracted emergencies, fragile states and countries in recovery/transition; and the trends in the frequency and magnitude of major rapid-onset emergencies.

The financial constraints currently affecting WHO serve as a catalyst to speed up and delineate the restructuring. However, extensive consultations were conducted with stakeholders inside and outside of WHO to identify a structure that optimizes efficiencies across all three major technical areas of work of the new Cluster – Polio Eradication, Emergencies and Country Collaboration – while enhancing support and collaboration between the two programmes supporting major field operations (i.e. in the areas of polio eradication and humanitarian action).

This month’s Highlights first features updates on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Yemen and Abyei, and provides a few highlights on the health situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Next, it introduces the 2010 overview of WHO’s work in emergencies and humanitarian action. It then gives a brief overview on the activities of the Programme on Vulnerability and Risk Analysis & Mapping in Tunis and informs on the third Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction and on the Granada meeting on post-disaster and post-conflict needs assessments. It concludes with a few meetings and updates in emergency activities in the regions.