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Renewed partnerships build momentum for WHO’s new Health Emergencies Programme

WHO Member States have agreed to one of the most profound transformations in the Organization’s history, establishing the new Health Emergencies Programme during the 69th Session of the World Health Assembly taking place this week.

With 130 million people in need of humanitarian assistance worldwide and health emergencies at an all-time high, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said, “WHO is encouraged by our Member States’ agreement to our new Health Emergencies Programme. This is an important step towards WHO becoming a truly operational agency - as requested by our Member States - to complement our technical and normative role.”

A WHO field worker talks to refugee children at a camp in Jordan.

The new Programme is designed to deliver rapid, predictable, and comprehensive support to countries and communities as they prepare for, face or recover from emergencies caused by any type of hazard to human health, whether disease outbreaks, natural or man-made disasters or conflicts.

WHO Member States, including Australia, Germany, Japan and Sweden, stepped forward with financial support for the new Programme. The Government of Japan committed $US 50 million to support WHO’s emergencies work.

“I particularly welcome the contribution of $50 million from the Government of Japan, a sign of confidence in our new Health Emergencies Programme from a long-standing supporter of WHO's work in emergencies,” Dr Chan said.

The US$ 50 million is in addition to Japan’s recent contribution of US$ 18.6 million for WHO’s work in emergencies for 2016.

“We strongly expect WHO to play a leading role in responding to health emergencies, in its capacity as the sole technical agency in the field of global health,” said Ms. Fusae Ota, Parliamentary Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan.

The Organization is already working with partners to support countries in several emergency settings with its new approach, including the global response to the Zika virus, as well as the response to the yellow fever outbreak in Angola and the health consequences of drought in Ethiopia.

WHO’s new Health Emergencies Programme

The development of the new Programme is the result of a massive reform effort, based on recommendations from a range of independent and expert external reports and involving all levels of WHO – country offices, regional offices and headquarters.

World Health Assembly 69, 25 May 2016
WHO/L. Cipriani

The new Programme will consist of a single workforce using common standards and processes to provide a fast, effective and predictable response to health emergencies, addressing the full risk management cycle of prevention, preparedness, response and early recovery.

WHO will provide leadership within the context of the International Health Regulations and health, in relation to the broader humanitarian and disaster-management system. As health cluster lead, it will draw on the respective strengths and expertise of a wide range of partners and Member States.

To fulfil these new responsibilities, delegates agreed to a budget of US$ 494 million for the Programme for 2016−2017. This consists of the existing US$ 334million budget for 2016-2017 plus an additional US$ 160 million.