Humanitarian Health Action

Minimum standards of preparedness for WHO Offices

Operational Implications

All WHO Country Offices should be prepared, enabled and ready to deal with a crisis. The following aspects should be covered by a preparedness plan to be activated immediately once the Government and the UN Country Team declare a state of emergency.

1. Operating procedures: activated automatically once the Government or the UNCT have declared a state of emergency (Day 1)

Human resources

  • Implement WHO procedures for quick recruitment of new temporary staff (APW, SSA STC etc.: see manual)
  • Reassign tasks within the office – designate technical and logistics/admin focal points and assign secretarial/driver support
  • Review overtime and leaves to ensure all staff get adequate rest
  • Activate measures and mechanisms for managing staff’s stress


  • Circulate a list of revised office functions (in office, to MOH and partners, to regional office (RO) and HQ)
  • Facilitate emergency visa and travel arrangements for arriving experts/surge teams
  • Arrange personal and administrative support to incoming experts
  • Implement WHO emergency administrative procedures (see manual)


  • Arrange with HQ and RO and obtaining additional cash and budget lines for immediate expenditures
  • Implement agreed emergency financial procedures (6% programme support costs, reports and others)

2. Information management: activated as from Day 1


  • Inform RO of the event(s)
  • Submit regular situation reports to RO/HQ according to agreed timing and standard formats
  • Inform WHO offices in neighbouring countries if and as appropriate
  • Identify information needs and set information flow policies and guidelines
  • Open a special file (hard copy and e-copy in a shared folder on the server) – set up a common email address to be used for information sharing
  • Provide country profile and briefing packages to new staff, visiting experts and surge teams
  • Organize/attend teleconferences
  • Arrange translation services (live translation of meetings, accompany experts on visits, translate documents (those received from MOH as well as WHO documents to share with MOH)
  • Provide regular briefing and circulate updates to office staff


  • Support MOH in taking the lead for coordinated rapid health assessment
  • Promote consensus, organize, coordinate, participate and ensure national participation in rapid need assessments.
  • Disseminate defined protocols (case definitions, formats, methodologies etc. ) and promote their use for data collection , analysis and reporting
  • Translate and disseminate technical reports and guidelines
  • Prepare information packages and/or bulletins, etc to share with UN Agencies, NGOs, donors, public.
  • Deal with media according to defined policies

3. Coordination: (on-going) activated around the crisis as from Day 1

  • Establish regular contacts with emergency focal points for decision making and technical support roles at RO and HQ
  • Keep Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and others partners informed on WHO functions, activities and staff changes
  • Take the lead in organizing international support to the MOH
  • Chair and/or co-chair, and provide secretarial support to health coordination mechanisms and meetings
  • Promote set-up of donor task forces on health
  • Strengthen or promote the establishment of emergency health unit at MOH liasing with other emergency government bodies
  • Make arrangements with other UN agencies and NGO for temporary loans of staff, warehouse and office space, meeting rooms and vehicles.

4. Logistics: activated as from Day 1

  • Re-arrange office space including setting up of an emergency operation room and equipped work spaces for incoming experts
  • Strengthen office ITC capacity
  • Reach understanding and coordinating with RO on fast procurement procedures and cash flow
  • Reach agreements on expediting or getting exemptions for national custom clearance procedures
  • Reinforce/establish warehouse capacity and supply tracking system
  • Promote the implementation of drug donation guidelines
  • Strengthen office transport capacity
  • Establish/reinforce office emergency power supply
  • Ensure stocks of emergency supplies for the office ( including fuel, water, food rations)
  • In the case of epidemics, ensure supplies of PPE, vaccines and treatments for staff who may be exposed/at risk of exposure.

5. Security : upgraded as from Day 1

  • Certify that staff and premises comply with Minimum Operation Security Standards (MOSS) requirements
  • Provide security information packages for incoming experts, surge teams
  • Maintain daily coordination with UN designated official for security and updating all staff
  • Establish protective measures for the staff
  • Consider arrangements for larger safe deposits
  • Certify medical evacuation procedures

6. Decision : ( at least for sudden events) consult with partners at country level and with RO and, at the end of Day 1, decide whether to call for surge capacity support.

From a checklist for WHO country office in emergency developed by WHO Representative to Viet Nam. 2003