The stated goal of WHO in emergencies is “to reduce avoidable loss of life, burden of disease and disability in emergencies and post crisis transition. This is achieved by ensuring presence and operational capacity in the field to strengthen coordinated public health management for optimal impact, collective learning and health sector accountability.”
Preventing and mitigating effects of disasters
Although many emergencies are often unpredictable, much can be done to prevent and mitigate their effects, as well as to strengthen the response capacity of communities at risk. WHO is the lead agency for addressing the health aspects of emergency preparedness and response. In 2005, its World Health Assembly (WHA) passed a resolution calling on the Organization to provide technical guidance and support to countries building their emergency response capacities, stressing a multisectoral and comprehensive approach. The following year, another resolution called on Member States to further strengthen and integrate their response programmes, especially at the community level, and emphasized interagency cooperation at the international level. WHO Regional Committees have also passed resolutions in support of emergency preparedness.
Leading role of WHO
WHO is the designated lead of the health cluster. WHO builds global capacity for humanitarian health action by developing global guidance, standards, tools and resources to inform, enhance and facilitate the implementation of the cluster approach at the country level, as well as to improve surge capacity, access to trained technical expertise and material stockpiles to improve response operations. A key to achieving the desired impact of these reforms, and specifically of the cluster approach, is the strengthening of the preparedness capacity of countries and communities particularly at risk before an emergency strikes.