WHO and partners respond to emergencies worldwide

August 2017

WHO is the lead agency for health within the United Nations system. We coordinate the international health response to emergencies and humanitarian crises whenever a country needs assistance.

But we cannot do this work without our partners - other UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations and donors – who help us deliver health services in even the most difficult situations.

This photo gallery shows how WHO is working with partners in recent and ongoing emergencies such as famine, Ebola outbreaks, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, yellow fever in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the earthquake in Ecuador.

International Medical Corps/C. Wells

International Medical Corps (IMC) clinical officer, Grace Akumu, examines a baby at a mobile medical unit set up in Gap, a village of 1600 people in Nyal Payom, Panyijar County, South Sudan. Health workers like Grace have been treating many malnourished children in Panyijar, a county in Unity State that receives a high number of people fleeing their homes seeking food and health services. IMC works to provide health care, nutrition, mental health and protection services to thousands of people across South Sudan.

WHO/E. Soteras Jalil

The largest-ever emergency yellow fever vaccination campaign in Africa was accomplished last year through an extraordinary network of WHO partnerships including UNICEF, World Food Programme, Médecins sans Frontières, the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the US Centers for Disease Control and others. WHO played a key role in ensuring the availability of millions of vaccines and syringes, training health workers, storing and transporting vaccines under the right conditions and engaging with communities and leaders to release information about the campaigns.

WHO/A. Clements-Hunt

In a small town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Red Cross volunteer acts as a ‘town crier’ to help spread health messages for a vaccination campaign. Volunteers went to public places, such as markets and town squares, so that people understood how the yellow fever vaccination could help protect them and their families from yellow fever.


The World Food Programme (WFP) works with WHO on a range of projects. WHO provides evidence-based recommendations and guidance on topics, such as nutrition and mother and child health. After working together in Ebola-affected countries, the two organizations reinforced their partnership, which combines the logistics strength of WFP with WHO’s public health expertise. Here WFP distributes food to residents in a commune in Haiti heavily damaged by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

J. Da Cruz

With support from WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, a team of experts from Indonesia’s National Institute of Health, Research and Development came to Timor-Leste to help build a surveillance system that could detect unusual respiratory infections. The team also conducted trainings on severe acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illnesses at the national hospital and in five community health centres.

Brazilian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Haiti worked to bring food and supplies to the people of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew. Here they are working to unload supplies from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is one of the many government agencies that supports WHO’s work in health emergencies around the world. Among other initiatives, USAID supports field health programmes to prevent suffering and save lives in the wake of natural and man-made disasters.

Field Medical Foundation

Families who have been displaced by the conflict in Yemen receive nutrition services at mobile clinics through a WHO partnership with the Field Medical Foundation.

WHO/S.T. Hawkey

In Guinea, WHO and MSF partnered with the Ministry of Health and the Norweigan Institute of Public Health on a Phase III vaccination trial for a vaccine that has since proven to be highly effective against Ebola. The vaccine is the first of its kind to prevent infection from one of the world’s most deadly viruses.

WHO established the Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) Initiative to rapidly deploy quality-assured medical personnel to emergencies. These teams save lives during disasters and outbreaks. Having recently been trained by WHO, Ecuador was prepared and able to deploy 22 national medical teams within hours of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country in 2016. They were assisted by 7 international teams from Colombia, Germany, Israel, Peru, Spain and the United States of America.