Working with partners in health emergencies

The Pacific’s first international Emergency Medical Team is ready to go

13 May 2019 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) says Fiji’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT) is ready for international deployment, becoming the first team in the Pacific islands with this unique capability.

Verified as a Type 1 Fixed Emergency Medical Team (EMT), FEMAT is now able to respond domestically and across the Pacific, providing a broad range of medical and emergency services for up to 100 patients per day.

Japan strengthens global health security

27 February 2019 - The Government of Japan has provided a new contribution of US$ 22 million to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE) - the single largest contribution to the fund since its founding in 2015.

WHO/J. Kannah
Vacination in Yemen

DARES (Deliver Accelerated Results Effectively and Sustainably)

Operational framework to deliver accelerated results, effectively and sustainably in fragile contexts - through a stronger emphasis on prevention, by increasing national capacity to deliver essential services, to mount effective outbreak response, and leave no one behind in collaboration with WFP, UNICEF and World Bank. To

WHO/Sadeq Hasan

From the ground up: local partners improve health care

November 2017 – Of the more than 700 Health Cluster partners worldwide, over 50% are national or local organizations. The whole humanitarian sector is prioritizing the need to localize services – to the Health Cluster this means strengthening existing health systems within countries, rather than operating parallel systems which could undermine national provision. Successfully empowering the work of national and local actors will deliver better care, more flexibly and more sustainably, whilst reaching more people.

Medair/H. Manson
Team members take a sample from a young boy in Befotaka. IPM has developed a rapid diagnostic test for quickly assessing whether a person is infected with plague.

Plague outbreak in remote Madagascar puzzles investigators

May 2017 -- Plague, though terrifying, is nothing new in Madagascar, where around 600 cases are reported annually. But there was something different about a suspected plague outbreak reported last December. The outbreak’s location was far away from recent outbreaks and implied plague had spread to new parts of the island nation, but health officials couldn’t explain it.

Institut Pasteur Madagascar

Leading public health institutions define guidance for emergency responders to respond to future disease outbreaks

London, 14 February 2017—Twenty of the world's leading public health institutions defined and committed to a standard training package for rapid responders deployed to deal with major disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. Public Health England (PHE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-hosted the first major workshop of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) partners to develop a coordinated programme to prepare highly-trained rapid responders for their next deployments.

Deploying quality-assured medical teams when disaster strikes

February 2017 -- Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) are groups of health professionals (such as doctors, nurses, paramedics) who treat patients affected by an emergency or disaster. They come from governments, charities, non-governmental organizations, militaries and international organizations such as the International Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. WHO's EMT initiative aims to ensure that emergency medical teams deploying to disasters have received sufficient training and necessary equipment and supplies to respond to emergencies without imposing a burden on the local system.


The world is dealing with emergencies of unprecedented scale. 130 million people need humanitarian assistance worldwide. No organization can do it alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) works on health emergencies of all kinds ranging from disease outbreaks to conflicts to natural disasters. In all instances, WHO relies on partners through networks, such as the Global Health Cluster, Standby Partners, Emergency Medical Teams and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. In 2016, WHO deployed over 1800 experts to public health emergencies and support affected countries. More half were recruited externally, including from partner organizations.

Global Health Cluster


Effective response to the world’s health crises would be impossible without the coordinated teamwork of the Health Cluster. More than 700 partners combine their technical, operational and coordination abilities to support the national health response in crisis-affected countries to ensure that people in need receive essential health care. There are 23 Health Clusters currently active in various crisis-affected countries with WHO as Cluster Lead Agency supporting national authorities to implement the response. Worldwide, the Health Cluster aims to help some 69.7 million people.

WHO Standby Partnerships

WHO/Nyka Alexander

In emergencies, extra personnel must quickly be in place to support WHO’s work. Through Standby Partners, WHO rapidly mobilizes qualified and experienced professionals to respond to the health consequences of acute and protracted emergencies and disease outbreaks. Since 2013, WHO has collaborated with Standby Partner organizations to support both WHO and the Health Cluster’s work during an emergency. In 2016, these partnerships were critical in supporting WHO’s response to emergencies such as the Syrian regional crisis, the crisis in South Sudan and Cyclone Winston in Fiji.

Emergency Medical Teams

In cooperation with host-country health ministries and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and, WHO helped to select and to guide the work of the Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) providing clinical care in the wake of emergencies, including 28 teams in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam (March 2015), 149 teams after the Nepal earthquake (April 2015) and 28 teams for the Ecuador earthquake (April 2016).

Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network (GOARN)

During public health emergencies the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) ensures that the right technical expertise and skills are on the ground where and when they are needed most. GOARN operates under WHO’s leadership, and is a multidisciplinary network of technical and operational resources from over 200 public health institutions, specialist public health networks, laboratories networks, UN organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Since 2000, GOARN has responded to 120 field missions in 80 countries, deploying over 2700 persons to the field from over 100 institutions. For example, during the Ebola response, WHO supported the deployment of 1100 personnel from 50 GOARN partners.

Mobile clinics donated by partners

Mobile clinics provide health care to people in some of the world’s worst crises

WHO and its many partners regularly deploy diverse mobile clinics and medical teams to reach people cut off from access to health services. When coordinating crisis response, WHO has arranged for such wheel-based health care, and adjusted the details based on circumstances. WHO may buy mobile clinics or supply them, or pay for partners to buy or supply them. In 2016, WHO-supported mobile clinics operated in Iraq, Jordan (in aid of Syrian refugees), Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen, among others.


With the number and scale of humanitarian crises around the world, some countries have fallen off the global radar. In many forgotten crises, WHO depends heavily on the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). In 2016, WHO received more than US $44 million from CERF for emergency response operations in 35 countries. WHO transferred around $4 million of its CERF funding to 30 international and national non-governmental organizations in 13 countries in 2016.

Global influenza

Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS)

Established in 1952, the network currently comprises 143 institutions in 113 WHO Member States, which are recognized by WHO as National Influenza Centres, 6 WHO Collaborating Centres, 4 WHO Essential Regulatory Laboratories, 13 WHO H5 reference laboratories, and ad hoc groups established to address specific emerging issues.

Pandemic influenza

The PIP Framework brings together Member States, industry, other stakeholders and WHO to implement a global approach to pandemic influenza preparedness and response. 350 million doses of flu vaccine should be available for the next flu pandemic for countries in need based on commitments by vaccine manufacturers under the PIP Framework.

Disease assessment and response

The WHO Emerging Diseases Clinical Assessment and Response Network (EDCARN)

The Emerging Diseases Clinical Assessment and Response Network (EDCARN) comprises collaborating centres and individuals from governmental and nongovernmental organizations, academia, WHO and other stakeholders aimed at sharing information and experience to enhance clinical care and scientific understanding of emerging infectious diseases.

Pathogens laboratory network

EDPLN is made up of global and regional EDPLN networks of high security human and veterinary diagnostic laboratories. EDPLN provides evidence-based strategies, tools and practices for rapid detection and containment of outbreaks of novel, emerging and dangerous pathogens in order to minimize their impact on public health, health systems and economies of affected areas.

Vaccine provision

International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision

The ICG is a mechanism to coordinate the provision of emergency vaccine supplies to countries during major outbreaks. The ICG is composed of four member agencies: Médecins sans Frontières (MSF); International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and WHO. In addition to these members, additional expertise and technical advice is provided on a case-by-case basis from a range of partners. ICGs have been established to provide access to vaccines for cholera, meningitis and yellow fever.

Cholera control

The Global Task Force on Cholera Control

In 2014, countries around the world requested the WHO Director-General to revitalise the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) to gather all stakeholders in cholera control in a coordinated country-led approach. The Task Force, of which WHO is the Secretariat, is launching a strategy to eliminate cholera through pragmatic prevention and control measures as well as building capacity in-country, and strong collaborations with other key partners. The Task Force operates through working groups on key aspects of cholera prevention and control such as the oral cholera vaccine, water and sanitation hygiene, and advocacy.