Five out of 21 appeals to international donors to support life-saving
programmes for peoples hit by war, population displacement and natural disaster have
produced a resounding zero response so far this year, according to a review by the World
Health Organization (WHO), released today. And a further four appeals have achieved less
than 10 % of the money needed to restore any semblance of basic health care.
Hardest hit are Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan and the
Indonesian islands of Maluku where, despite enormous health needs due to continued
conflict or its aftermath, donors have so far offered no cash for WHO's emergency
The appeal for Afghanistan has also garnered less than 1% of the US$2.8
million crucial to reverse the inexorable decline of the population's health, while
in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tajikistan and a combined appeal for the African
Great Lakes region, WHO has received less than 10% of the funds it believes are needed.
Only two appeals for North Caucasus and Angola have passed the 50% mark.
Overall, the Organization has received less than US$18 million of the
US$68 million it has asked for through the UN consolidated appeal process. And WHO is not
the only agency to suffer. In the recent Appeal for the Drought in the Horn of Africa, the
dearth of funding for non-food items was a disturbing pattern across the board, says the
Director of WHO's Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action, Dr Xavier Leus.
"It is hard to understand why the response is so poor. We are
seeing people especially women and children - who have shown great courage,
surviving war, escape, drought, and extreme food shortage, now finding their lives
threatened by illness and diseases that could be prevented by the most basic health
interventions. Yet despite the UN System adopting the favoured approach of single
consolidated appeals, funders appear not to be able to respond," he says.
In Burundi, for example, where much of the health structure has been
destroyed and more than 15 women in every 1000 who give birth to a live baby die in doing
so, no donor has seen fit to provide the US$200,000 WHO believes is needed to re-establish
simple safe motherhood practices.
In conflict-blighted South Sudan, 75% of illness and death is caused by
mostly preventable infectious disease, yet ordering of critical supplies of drugs and
vaccines for outbreak response is on hold because of lack of funds.
In Northern Afghanistan, 900 children died in March from measles,
largely because primary health care services are, after long years of conflict, so
inadequate. WHO asked for US$260,000 to work with NGOs and local authorities to improve
primary health care services in the country and US$300,000 to train and update health
staff with, so far, no response.
Some funds have been received, and rapidly. Of the US$ 18 million
received or pledged, 23% has come from Norway, 15% each from the United Kingdom and
Australia, 13% from the US, and between 5% to 8% each from the European Community
Humanitarian Office, Japan, Italy, Denmark and Sweden.
And WHO has been using its "regular" budget funds
which come from the pool of membership fees countries pay to maintain WHO offices globally
to bridge the chasm and implement urgent emergency programmes, such as epidemic
early warning and control systems, essential drug supply, training in safe motherhood and
the management of common childhood illnesses. Maternal mortality and childhood illnesses
are both major killers in unstable situations.
But a crisis can swallow this allocation, designed to last two years,
in just one month, leaving health services critically under-resourced when people are at
their most vulnerable unless extra money can be found immediately, says Dr Leus.
"Perhaps the politics of emergencies discourages wealthy countries
from responding or perhaps they sense that little can be done even if funds are provided.
"But evidence suggests otherwise. A difference can be made
a recent study by the International Rescue Committee in the Democratic Republic of Congo
showed only 13% of the over 1 million deaths in this war-torn country were caused by
'a man with a weapon'. The rest were caused by lack of services, extreme
vulnerability and common diseases. Our experience in these countries of conflict is that
well designed health programmes have a significant impact on people's lives and
wellbeing even if the situation remains unstable. We urge donors to back us in doing
For further information, please contact: Dr Xavier Leus: Director,
Emergency and Humanitarian Action Department, WHO Geneva, Tel: (+41 22) 791 2752/4676,
email: email@example.com; Dr Yonas Tegegn: External
Relations Officer, Emergency and Humanitarian Action Department, WHO Geneva, Tel: (+41 22)
791 2722, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mr Gregory Hartl:
WHO Spokesperson, WHO Geneva, Tel: (+41 22) 791 4458, email: email@example.com
A full copy of the "Mid Term Review of WHO Emergency Activities in
the Consolidated Appeal Process" is available from Dr Tegegn. All WHO Press Releases,
Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on
Internet on the WHO home page: http://www.who.int