On 10 September 2020, the WHO European Centre for Preparedness for Humanitarian and Health Emergencies was formally inaugurated at a colourful ribbon-cutting ceremony, led online by Dr Fahrettin Koca, Minister of Health of Turkey, in Istanbul, and Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in Copenhagen. Also participating in the ceremony were Dr Dorit Nitzan, WHO/Europe's Regional Emergency Director, and dignitaries and senior officials from WHO/Europe, the WHO Country Office in Turkey, the United Nations family and the Government of Turkey. Dr Irshad Shaikh, WHO Representative to Turkey (ad interim), moderated the ceremony from the new premises in Istanbul.
"We are opening this centre at a time when the world is facing an unprecedented pandemic. But in the face of this challenge, the birth of this new GDO [geographically dispersed office] also serves as a symbol of equally significant human endurance and hope that together, with global and regional solidarity, we can and we will prevail and defeat this virus," said Dr Kluge.
"Turkey is a country at significant risk of earthquakes and other natural disasters, and one that has made strong disaster management and community resilience its mission, which gives special significance to its hosting of this GDO on emergency preparedness," he added. Dr Kluge thanked His Excellency President Erdogan and the Minister of Health, Dr Koca, for their leadership and support.
"Our relations with WHO, our closest partner in the field of health, continue to develop in a more layered and multifaceted way than ever before. This new office will operate in areas such as response to humanitarian crises in the European Region, prevention of and response to emergencies, risk management and capacity-building, especially for COVID-19, which affects the whole world," said Dr Koca at the opening.
WHO European centre on humanitarian and health emergencies
This newest addition to the WHO/Europe family is the 6th GDO in the Region. Hosted by the Government of Turkey, this GDO in Istanbul will serve as the regional centre of excellence for emergency preparedness and provide technical expertise to improve capacity-building and operationalize selected International Health Regulations (2005) core capacity areas.
Working together with governments and other partners, including academic and research institutions across the Region, the centre will also seek to strengthen intergovernmental partnerships and community resilience, and facilitate institutionalization of state-of-the-art evidence and best practices within and between Member States. This will be achieved through trainings, simulations and conducting applied research in the area of health emergencies and disaster risk management, aligned with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015--2030).
"Turkey's diverse expertise and hands-on experience responding to acute and protracted health emergencies, coupled with her spirit of global solidarity, will be invaluable in driving forward this centre's work, together with Turkish experts assigned to it by the Ministry of Health," concluded Dr Shaikh.