Global health needs hit “all-time high”, says WHO

6 Apr 16

Health needs from humanitarian emergencies have hit an “all-time high” according to the World Health Organisation, which is appealing for $2.2bn for its work in 2016.

WHO and its partners said the funds would support life-saving health services to more than 79 million people in more than 30 countries facing protracted emergencies this year. Syria is one of the biggest, with 11.5 million people in need of health services including trauma and mental health care.

Bruce Aylward, executive director of outbreaks and health emergencies at WHO, warned that the health crisis has not hit its peak yet.

“The situation is getting worse. The increasing impact of protracted conflict, forced displacement, climate change, unplanned urbanisation and demographic changes all mean that humanitarian emergencies are becoming more frequent and severe.”

WHO said it also needs urgent funds to support 6.8 million people threatened by the worst drought in decades in Ethiopia, with one of the main priorities being treatment for more than 400,000 severely malnourished children.

In total, as many as 18 million people are in need of or receiving food assistance in the country.

The drought, which has sparked serious food crises throughout much of eastern and southern Africa, was induced by the weather pattern known as El-Niño, which describes the cyclical warming of the tropical Pacific. This results in erratic weather all over the world, with the most severe effects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

While a natural phenomenon that is not caused by climate change, El-Niño is exacerbated by it, and vice versa. The current El-Niño is one of the strongest ever on record.

In addition to more than 30 protracted emergencies, WHO pointed out it also has to deal with sudden onset emergencies such as Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji in February this year, and infectious disease outbreaks including the Zika virus, the remaining risks of Ebola in West Africa, and Angola’s worst outbreak of yellow fever in 30 years.

The agency added it is rolling out a new health emergencies programme that will increase operational capacity and enable a faster, effective and predictable response to all kinds of health emergencies. 

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