Beginning in 2011, WHO underwent a restructuring of its emergency work to align it with the ongoing reform of the global humanitarian system led by the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC). This report describes the emergency risk and crisis management work of the Organization in 2013 and 2014, in the wake of this restructuring, and provides examples of how its new policies and procedures guided the implementation of specific activities for risk management and emergency response.
The scale and frequency of humanitarian emergencies in 2013 and 2014 overwhelmed response and preparedness systems globally. From 2013 through the end of 2014, WHO responded to more than 40 graded emergencies, six of which were classified as Grade 3: the conflicts in Central African Republic and the Republic of Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic regional crisis, South Sudan’s civil conflict, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In addition, WHO has provided technical advice and assistance to over 100 countries to help them strengthen their national capacities for disaster risk reduction in the health sector.
Disasters can have devastating and wide-ranging health impacts in any country. In those with limited capacity to prepare and respond effectively, the results may be truly catastrophic, undoing decades of population health gains, weakening health systems and damaging precious health infrastructure. In all types of emergencies, the poorest and most vulnerable people are affected disproportionately. Over the last two years, this has been shown repeatedly, whether in conflict situations, natural disasters or disease outbreaks.
Every crisis highlights the need for a consistently strong and coordinated response, as well as the critical importance of risk reduction and preparedness. As a technical, development, operational and humanitarian agency, and the lead agency of the Health Cluster, WHO plays a key role in emergency risk management for health.
The lessons learned from the mega crises of the past years, especially from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, have prompted Member States to call for a reform of WHO’s capacity to respond to future large-scale and sustained outbreaks and emergencies. This will better enable the Organization to support and build Member States’ capacity to prevent, detect, prepare for and respond to such outbreaks and emergencies.