Health responses to humanitarian crises

This HEART Talks is a presentation from a humanitarian health seminar held at DFID 29th July 2016. In the video below DFID health adviser Chris Lewis talks about two of the HEART reading packs. The first is Health Responses to Humanitarian Crises and the second is Humanitarian Overview From Principles to Coordination.

Humanitarian crises are important as they contribute to 60% of all preventable maternal deaths. They also contribute to 53% of under 5 deaths, as well as 45% of neonatal deaths. The most common causes of mortality in emergencies are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. As well as the initial response  to a crisis, it is important to consider the long-term impacts. Water borne diseases tend to emerge a week or two after a crisis. Vector borne diseases emerge after one or two months. In the video, Chris summarises the impact of crises on health systems.

Different types of monitoring are required for different post-crisis periods. Chris outlines how the initial assessment should be carried out in the first 72 hours. In weeks one to two field assessments shout be carried, and from week three onwards more health specific assessments should be conducted. Details of health assessment methods for each health topic are available in the reading pack. Key response activities for different diseases and health areas are presented.

Chris states that it is important to be aware of the opportunities for health system reform. The end of a crisis may be an opportunity to implement effective reform. Chris outlines the principles and conventions that exist within humanitarian response, which one of the reading packs is about. There are 11 clusters in the humanitarian system to be aware of. They have different roles and responsibilities that are outlined in the pack.

WHO global health cluster update

A recent WHO global health cluster update describes areas of crisis response planning that still require attention. More thought must be given to coordination efforts across the different support mechanisms. Chris describes humanitarian response as a continuum from humanitarian relief to sustainable development. Humanitarian advisers must consider the opportunities to strengthen health systems after a crisis.

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