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2016 WHO Humanitarian Response Plans: Summary of health priorities and WHO projects in interagency humanitarian response plans

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In 2016 over 125 million people living in crisis-affected countries are in need of humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian community is committed to providing aid to over 87 million of those in need. The risks to health posed by humanitarian emergencies are at an all-time high. Developments such as climate change, urbanization, population growth and worsening civil conflict are increasing the frequency and severity of many types of emergencies. Attacks on health workers and health facilities are also on the rise.

This document describes how WHO and its Health Cluster partners plan to meet health needs in countries, territories and regions facing protracted emergencies in 2016. Collectively, health sector partners are appealing for US$ 1.6 billion to provide assistance. Of that amount, WHO requires US$481 million. Health interventions under the Humanitarian Response Plans address issues such as the spread of infectious diseases, the lack of medicines and health services and rising rates of acute malnutrition. The number of people affected, and their health needs, are likely to rise throughout the year as new acute crises occur.

In addition to the protracted emergencies featured in this document, the Organization and its partners are responding to sudden onset emergencies such as Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji in February 2016, or epidemics such as the Zika virus in Brazil, the remaining cases of Ebola in West Africa and a severe outbreak of yellow fever in Angola that started in December 2015.

No one organization can respond to a health crisis alone. WHO leads the Health Cluster, with 48 partners at global level and more than 300 in countries. The Health Cluster plays a vital role in reaching people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Effective coordination among Health Cluster partners means the particular strengths of each partner can be leveraged, resources can be shared, duplications avoided and gaps closed. As a result, more people can be provided with life-saving health assistance.

In the Syrian Arab Republic, for example, health partners aim to help 11.5 million people in need of trauma and mental health care. WHO and partners also seek to assist over 4 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. WHO is working with partners to vaccinate children against life-threatening childhood illnesses such as measles and polio, and is distributing essential medicines and surgical supplies to health partners working in hard-to-reach areas. In Iraq, WHO is establishing a supply chain to stockpile essential medicines for over 7 million people.

Mothers and children require special attention. In Yemen, despite security concerns, partners aim to reach 10.6 million people with essential health care, including around 3 million people in need of reproductive health care services. In South Sudan, the Health Cluster aims to reach 2.3 million people, with a particular focus on addressing the major causes of death among children under five years old, such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Natural disasters are of particular concern in 2016. The health consequences of El Niño are being felt in countries such as Ethiopia where WHO has identified some 400 000 severely malnourished children who need immediate treatment. As the effects of El Niño worsen, this number is likely to rise.

WHO is changing how it operates in emergencies

In 2015, Member States called on WHO to address all emergency health risks and events in a predictable, capable, flexible and accountable manner. This means addressing all hazards, with one workforce, one budget, one set of rules and processes, one set of benchmarks and one line of authority. To operationalize this approach, in 2016 WHO is building core emergency operational capacity at country level to fulfil the Organization’s critical functions of health leadership, coordination, technical assistance and monitoring health standards, and - only as a last resort – implementation. WHO will work to improve its ability to collect, analyse data and provide up-to-date health information to partners on health risks, needs, capacities and response; build partnerships at local, regional and global levels, in order to meet its commitment as Health Cluster lead agency.

We know that when collaboration and partnership thrive, emergency response improves. To fully address these crises, WHO and partners need long-term, sustainable resources. WHO is ready to do its part, now we need your support.