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WHO: Increased funding needed to meet health needs of 21 million caught up in four major humanitarian emergencies

Health crises in Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria need US$1 billion

24 February, 2015 Geneva – Raging conflict and beleaguered health services are threatening the health of tens of millions of people across the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria. To respond, the World Health Organization today called on the international community to provide $US1 billion to support its on-going efforts – and those of partners – to treat, immunize and provide the wide range of life-saving health services needed to populations in need.

WHO made the call today, on behalf the entire Health Cluster of humanitarian organizations it coordinates, at a special session at its Geneva headquarters attended by more than 50 donor countries and other Member States.

WHO has classified the emergencies in each of the four countries as being “Grade 3” (G3) category crises, which require the highest-level of response that the entire Organization can deliver.

“This unprecedented number of humanitarian emergencies, combined with the Ebola outbreak response in West Africa, have demonstrated WHO’s ability to respond to major health emergencies,” according to Dr Bruce Aylward, Special Representative of the Director-General for Ebola Response and Assistant Director-General for Emergencies. “But the huge stresses they pose also underscore the great needs – and funding gaps – that WHO, and our health partners, from NGOs to sister United Nations agencies, face.”

Overall, the Health Cluster group of humanitarian organizations needs US$1 billion (including US$322.7 million by WHO and US$687 million for partners of the Cluster) to deliver health services to 25 million people in the major crises, the majority women and children.

Key details include:

  • Central African Republic: 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian health support; with US$48 million needed by the health sector (including US$15 million by WHO);
  • Iraq: 4 million people needing humanitarian health support; US$218.7 million needed by the health sector (including US$134 million by WHO);
  • South Sudan: 3.3 million people needing humanitarian health support; US$90 million required by the health sector (including US$16.7 million by WHO);
  • Syria: 16.4 million people needing humanitarian health support; US$687 million required by the health sector (including US$157 million by WHO) in Syria and neighbouring countries.

In each crisis, needs range from basic health care such as childhood vaccinations to surgical care for severely wounded patients caught up in the conflicts. In Iraq and CAR, for example, around one-quarter of hospitals, clinics and other health facilities have been damaged in their respective conflicts, or are not functioning. The sheer scale of humanitarian needs in 2014, coupled with insufficient funding levels, have stretched the capacity of the entire humanitarian system, including WHO, to the limit.

Still, WHO and partners have provided care to millions of people across each country. This has occurred through routine immunization programmes against measles, polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, delivering medical and health services ranging from surgical care, treating non-communicable diseases like cancers, diabetes, heart and lung diseases, and providing primary health care support to remote and besieged communities.

WHO also plays a central role in leading, coordinating, and supporting the health sector response in more than 30 other emergencies worldwide, and is leading Health Clusters in more than 20 countries.

“Despite these great challenges, WHO is well placed to lead the delivery of required health care in major emergencies,” says Dr Rick Brennan, WHO’s Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response. “Through our in-country presence in each affected nation, and leadership in global health, WHO has the authority and expertise needed to guide the services needed. But, to continue doing so effectively, increased international support is necessary.”

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