WHO responding to unprecedented scale of humanitarian emergencies

WHO responding to unprecedented scale of humanitarian emergencies
September 2014
WHO and health partners are responding to an unprecedented five “Grade 3” priority crises at the same time
[Excerpt]
For the first time ever, WHO is leading the health response to five major humanitarian crises at the same time. More than 60 million people, from West Africa to Iraq, urgently require a wide range of health-care services.
West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, and conflict-enflamed humanitarian crises in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Syria and Iraq, have stretched health services to the limit and caused many to collapse. This has required WHO and its health partners to fill increasingly widening gaps to ensure life-saving and routine care for millions of displaced persons and host communities.

“We are dealing with an unprecedented number of multiple humanitarian health crises concurrently. These are more complex and affecting more people than at any point since the end of the Second World War,” says Dr Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of WHO’s Polio and Emergencies Cluster.

Five highest level crises

The 5 crises have, due to their scale and the emergency health response required, each been categorized as Grade 3 (G3) emergencies, the highest grading determined by WHO as part of its Emergency Response Framework. The ERF grades emergencies across three levels, with Grade 3 being the most serious.

The scale of the emergencies is stark, including:
:: West Africa Ebola outbreak – 22 million people living in the three worst-affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – are at risk.
:: Iraq – 20 million people affected, including 1.8 million who are internally displaced.
:: Syria – 10.8 million people inside Syria, including 6.5 million people displaced within the country. Another 3 million people have fled the conflict to regional neighbours Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
:: South Sudan – 5.8 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 1.3 million who have been displaced.
:: Central African Republic – 2.5 million people are in need, including 425 000 displaced.

“Just two years ago, WHO developed the Emergency Response Framework (ERF) to guide our response in all types of emergencies,” explains Dr Aylward. “The ERF ensures that the full resources of the organization are made available to support the response to the most severe crises.”

“We are dealing with an unprecedented number of multiple humanitarian health crises concurrently.”

“We felt comfortable that the ERF would help us manage two Grade 3 emergencies concurrently, and if we were running 3 responses, we expected to be exiting one before entering the next. But 2 years later, we are managing five Grade 3 emergencies based on their scale, complexity, urgency, and political, social or economic impact. This is unprecedented – not only for WHO, but for all humanitarian partners.”

“And these will be long-term, sustained crises, not just a time-limited surge period,” he adds….