Can WHO bring speed and predictability to emergency work?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 24 May 2016

Delegates at the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by: L. Cipriani / WHO

Director-General Margaret Chan’s promise a year ago of creating a single program for health emergencies is coming together, but it will require strong support from across three levels of the organization as well as member states.

At this week’s World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization chief will be presenting before member states the agency’s progress report on the design, implementation plan and other requirements of its new health emergencies program, borne in response to calls a year ago by the WHO’s executive board to strengthen emergency operational capabilities. Some of the functions are already being tested, though the unveiling of the full program will take place from 2016 to 2019.

Health experts and humanitarian organizations, Médecins Sans Frontières being among the most vocal, heavily criticized the pace of WHO’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the ensuing panels and committees all arrived at the conclusion that change was needed at the U.N.’s health agency.

The new health emergencies program, in the director-general’s words, is designed to “bring speed and predictability to WHO’s emergency work.” It will be a single program with “one clear line of authority, one workforce, one budget, one set of rules and processes, and one set of standard performance metrics.”

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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