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WHO’s work in emergencies - 2016: the year in review, December 2016



76 million
people in need of aid as a result of emergencies – almost 60% of all people-in-need globally

30 million
people displaced (internally and in neighboring countries) as a result of conflict and natural disasters

7 graded emergencies
directly and indirectly affecting a total of 14 countries

Protracted emergencies
in Somalia and Sudan

H5N1, MERS CoV, Polio
health security threats currently in the Region

The Eastern Mediterranean Region experienced continued deterioration of the humanitarian and health situation in 2016. As conflict raged in a number of countries, tens of thousands of men, women and children were killed and injured, hundreds of thousands were besieged and deprived of basic aid, and millions more were forced to flee their homes.

From children injured by explosive weapons, to pregnant women unable to give birth in a safe setting, to cancer patients deprived of essential treatment, more than 66 million people in the Region are affected by some of the world’s most violent and longstanding humanitarian crises.

In countries facing conflict and ongoing violence, the operating environment for humanitarian actors remained volatile, with fragile security, limited access, threats to and attacks on health care workers, and increased social and economic challenges increasing humanitarian needs.

1. Strengthening partnerships to reach all people in need

Limited access as a result of ongoing conflict and insecurity in a number of countries in the Region has resulted in WHO exploring more innovative ways to reach populations in need. This included expanding and strengthening collaboration and coordination with local health partners who have greater access to vulnerable affected populations in areas that international agencies find hard to reach.

The year 2016 marked the first time in several years that WHO was able to reach all 18 besieged areas in Syria. This was made possible only through OCHA-supported inter-agency convoys and WHO’s strong partnerships with more than 140 international partners and local nongovernmental organizations. Through its hubs in Syria (Damascus), Turkey (Gaziantep) and Jordan (Amman) WHO and partners engaged in essential cross-line and cross-border humanitarian responses that covered all parts of the country, taking the most direct route to people in need, regardless of geographical location or political affiliation.

During the military operations in Eastern Aleppo, WHO played a key role in negotiations with all parties to the conflict and developed a comprehensive medical evacuation plan designed to save the lives of hundreds of wounded and critically ill patients trapped inside the city. Finally, after months of negotiations for safe access and several failed cease-fires, on 15 December, the long-awaited evacuations began. As WHO and other UN staff monitored the operation, 811 wounded and critically ill patients were successfully transported to hospitals in Western Aleppo, Idleb and cross-border to Turkey. WHO delivered health supplies to hospitals treating the wounded and deployed ambulances for referrals. WHO-supported mobile clinics located along the evacuation route and in collective shelters for displaced persons provided essential primary health care services, mental health screening, nutrition screening to tens of thousands people.

As military operations intensified in Iraq, partnerships with local heath actors were enhanced. This allowed WHO to reach populations in some inaccessible areas as well as in newly accessible areas in and around Anbar and Mosul. WHO-supported mobile medical clinics and mobile medical teams were sometimes the first to reach newly accessible areas to deliver health care services to thousands of people who had been cut off from aid since June 2014.

Despite several failed cease-fires in Yemen, in early 2016 WHO was able to deliver much-needed medicines and medical supplies to Taiz city, where more than 250,000 people had been living for months in a state of virtual siege. WHO provided trauma kits, interagency emergency health kits, diarrhoeal disease kits, intravenous fluids, as well as oxygen cylinders to five main hospitals that were struggling to function amid dwindling supplies.