6 Feb 2017
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Photo credit: WHO/C. Black

With the number and scale of humanitarian crises around the world, some countries have fallen off the global radar. That is the case for countries like the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan, where pressing needs don’t seem to garner the world’s attention. This can make it difficult to raise the funding necessary to carry out humanitarian response plans.

In Libya, for example, an acute shortage of medical supplies and health personnel has led to the full or partial closure of 43 out of 98 hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO), a major supplier of essential medicines to the Libyan Ministry of Health, received just 17% of the funding required for its crisis response activities in the country in 2016.

“The cameras may have moved on, but the crisis continues here in Libya,” said Dr Jaffar Hussain, WHO’s Representative in Libya. “Continued clashes and population displacement have increased health needs. There is a high risk of disease outbreaks, for example. At the same time, mothers still give birth, children require vaccination… but without funding we struggle to provide them with the care they need.”

In many of these forgotten crises, WHO depends heavily on the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – including in the Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Viet Nam, where the Fund is the sole source of financing for the entire humanitarian health sector. WHO has received a total of more than US $44 million from CERF for emergency response operations in 35 countries in 2016, and is the fourth-largest recipient of CERF funding. Each year on average, CERF funds enable critical health interventions for 20 million people.

“Oftentimes, support from CERF is the only thing that keeps us running,” continued Dr Hussain. “We’re thankful to CERF, and to all of the donors who provide resources for this global pooled fund, for enabling us to continue to provide life-saving health services, even under these extremely difficult circumstances.”

"Health services are crucial in every emergency response,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, who manages the CERF on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. “WHO is one of CERF's largest recipients and a key partner in ensuring that help reaches people in need, whenever and wherever crises hit. Time again, WHO has provided life-saving health care for people in forgotten crises that don't make the headlines, but where needs are just as urgent. Last year, CERF funds helped prevent a major yellow fever outbreak in Angola by reaching more than 2 million people with vaccines."

Forty-eight countries contributed to CERF in 2016, with the largest contributions coming from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.