Humanitarian Health Action

Managing WHO Humanitarian Response in the Field

About this handbook

Its purpose

This handbook provides guidance for WHO Representatives (WR), Country Office staff and consultants in assessing and managing the response to health needs during humanitarian crises. These are key elements of WHO action in relation to Strategic Objective 5: to reduce the health consequences of emergencies, disasters, crises and conflicts, and minimize their social and economic impact.

The Handbook replaces the 1999 Handbook for Emergency Field Operations (EHA/FIELD/99.1). It complements and cross-references the WHO-HAC Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), existing technical guidance on specific health-related interventions in emergencies, and the guidance expected from the Global Health Cluster. It focuses on management, defining the role and responsibilities of a WR and country office and providing the overall planning and management framework within which decisions have to be taken.

It provides comprehensive guidance for what to do in case of a major disaster or humanitarian crisis. The majority of natural disasters do not require such an intense or prolonged level of engagement by the international community but, in all cases, the WR (or head of the WHO country office) has specific responsibilities in relation to staff safety, information and analysis, coordination, determining what assistance (if any) might be needed from WHO and ensuring the efficient delivery of that assistance. The principal responsibilities are summarized in the panel on the next page.

Its structure

The handbook is structured in three parts. Part I (chapters 1 and 2) outlines the framework for WHO emergency response. All staff and consultants involved in an emergency operation must be familiar with the basics summarized in Part 1.

Part II (chapters 3 to 11) provides guidance on planning and managing the WHO response. In Part II, the chapters provide specific management guidance on what to do, when and why.

The annexes (numbered 1, 2, etc.) in Part III provide additional information.

Supplementary annexes (numbered A1, A2, B1, etc.) providing more detail, cross-cutting material, and selected tools are included on the CD-ROM that accompanies the Handbook together with other documents that are cross-referenced, including the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for WHO humanitarian action.