Alert, response, and capacity building under the International Health Regulations (IHR)

National IHR focal point

The establishment of a National IHR Focal Points (NFP) network is key to the successful implementation of the Regulations. The NFP plays a crucial role in communications both to WHO and to other national bodies engaged in IHR implementation. As the office responsible for the implementation coordination, reporting and notification of health events to WHO under the Regulations it is essential that the process from detection to intervention and capacity building is well understood, and that staff within the NFP are confident in the assessment of an event and capacity preparedness.

Designation of national IHR focal points

The State, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Permanent Mission, makes known in a written communication to the Organization its designation for its NFPs and any changes thereto. Changes to these designations must also be communicated, preferably in advance, through these same official channels.

NFP contact information are up to date

The International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR(2005)) define a National IHR Focal Point as "the national centre, designated by each State Party which shall be accessible at all times for communications with WHO IHR Contact Points under these Regulations". While the exact structure and organization of the NFP is left to the State, IHR (2005) defines the role, functions and operational requirements for real-time management of information and for efficient communications. In order to ensure around-the-clock coverage NFP are envisioned to be office rather than an individual. In 2012 the 24/7 contact information was available for 94% of the NFPs. The turnover of the primary responsible staff is about 20% per year.

Terms of reference

Member States may have varying perspectives concerning the appropriate roles for their national IHR focal points and the appropriate site for it in their national governmental structures. Given the differences in national governmental structures and roles, some variation is inevitable regarding the implementation of this obligation, consistent with the specific requirements of article 4 of the IHR (2005). At the same time, a level of global standardization is required for the network of national IHR focal points to operate effectively. To this end, and in response to requests from WHO Member States, the IHR Secretariat has produced the guidance below.

This guidance is intended to assist Member States in understanding and clarifying how they can meet their relevant obligations under the IHR (2005). It is anticipated that this guidance may be revised as experience is gained in the process of establishing the national IHR focal points network.