World Health Organization
منظمة الصحة العالمية
Organisation mondiale de la Santé

A concerted effort to strengthen emergency response in war-torn Yemen


The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners, Global Health Development (GHD) and the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET), with support from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), are making notable progress through the Public Health Empowerment Programme in preparing and equipping Yemen to rapidly respond to future public health threats, stopping them before they can spread to vulnerable communities.

As part of the Programme, the recently concluded 3-month training programme on strengthening epidemiological surveillance, investigation and response to outbreaks in Sana’a and Aden, targeted 75 surveillance coordinators from all governorate health offices. These trained trainers, under the supervision of senior EMPHNET staff, had already conducted in October and November a 2-month training programme for 46 surveillance officers from 23 priority districts for cholera in each governorate.

Even in the midst of intense conflict, the health authorities are actively empowering national health workers to rapidly detect and respond to potential disease outbreaks threatening their communities.

“The alarming combination of the deteriorating health system, disruption of water and sanitation networks that allow access to clean water, along with the massive influx of displaced people due to the ongoing conflict have triggered the rapid spread of diseases in the country,” said Ernest E. Massiah, Health, Nutrition  and Population Practice Manager at the World Bank.

This workshop marks a critical first step in equipping local health staff working at governorate and district levels across the country.

“The training of national rapid response teams is essential, because they are the first line of protection against emerging disease threats. Their ability to rapidly deploy and detect health threats before they spread reduces the number of disease outbreaks,” said Dr Nevio Zagaria, WHO Representative in Yemen.

“WHO remains committed to supporting these rapid response teams in all the districts of the country. Epidemic prone diseases have no borders.”

Participants were provided with a multi-professional training package aimed at enhancing their knowledge on key components of outbreak early detection, investigation, and response, with a focus on the practical application of these skills.

“The Public Health Empowerment Programme is a model for the application of interactive training in conditions of war and emergencies. It represents an example for countries suffering from humanitarian crisis and outbreaks,” said Dr Mohannad Al Nsour, EMPHNET Executive Director.

“WHO has been instrumental in promoting response to outbreaks during crises in close partnership with EMPHNET,” he added.

This phase of the Public Health Empowerment Programme will be followed by a second phase targeting 250 surveillance officers and other rapid response team members in 120 priority districts in 7 governorates starting in December 2017.