WHO in emergencies

A mobile lab in Likati Health Zone, where the current outbreak of Ebola is occuring. This type of laboratory safely allows outbreak response teams to rapidly test suspected cases onsite.

New technology for rapid diagnosis in Democratic Republic of the Congo

27 May 2017 - Laboratory testing of samples is essential to rapidly assess the scope and spread of any Ebola outbreak. Since the major outbreak in West Africa in 2014, an increasing number of diagnostic tools have become available to perform rapid initial testing of samples. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is using these new tools, as well as classic ones, to respond to an ongoing outbreak of the virus in a very remote area of the north east of the country.

WHO/J. Polonsky

WHO calls for immediate action to save lives in Somalia

11 May 2017 - WHO is concerned by the chronic shortage of funding for life-saving work in Somalia in response to the ongoing drought that has plunged the country further towards famine, disease, and health insecurity. Drought in Somalia led to the destruction of crops and livestock, leaving more than 3.3 million people hungry every day. If the current situation continues, famine could soon be a reality, creating a devastating cycle of hunger and disease as the health of people deteriorates and they become more susceptible to infection.


WHO Director-General's statement to high-level pledging event for crisis in Yemen

25 April 2017 - WHO, the World Bank, and UNICEF are using the situation in Yemen to rebuild the country’s health system, offering a model for a response that goes beyond emergency assistance to increase the resilience of fragile states. Putting a resilient health system in place is the most sustainable solution.

"We can do the job, if we have the resources" said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO.


Health security: is the world better prepared?

25 April 2017– There is no more acute need for a guardian of health than during a disease outbreak. Lessons learned from the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014 were the catalyst to creating our new Health Emergencies Programme, enabling a faster, more effective response to outbreaks and emergencies. We help countries meet the International Health Regulations and enable R&D collaboration to develop new vaccines and treatments in epidemic. Subsequent outbreaks of Zika and yellow fever have shown that we are moving in the right direction but more work is needed to ensure that the world is better prepared to handle the next epidemic.

WHO/P. Ajello

WHO and partners provide vaccines to control meningitis C in Nigeria

13 April 2017 – A vaccination campaign is under way in Nigeria to contain an outbreak of meningitis C. Meningitis infects the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord and can cause severe brain damage. Meningitis is fatal in 50% of cases if untreated. WHO and partners supported shipments of 1.3M doses of meningitis C vaccines and 20,000 antibiotics.

A Syrian victim receives treatment after an alleged chemical attack at a field hospital in Saraqib, Idlib province, northern Syria, 04 April 2017.

Chemical attack in Syria

5 April 2017 - WHO is alarmed by serious reports of the use of highly toxic chemicals in an attack in Khan Shaykhun, southern rural Idlib, Syria. At least 70 people have died and hundreds more have been affected. Doctors in Idlib are reporting that dozens of patients suffering from breathing difficulties and suffocation have been admitted to hospitals in the governorate for urgent medical attention, many of them women and children.


Where we work

Map showing emergencies around the world that has a WHO grading, 2016.

WHO has an essential role to play in supporting Member States to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies with public health consequences. Grading is an internal WHO process that is conducted to inform the Organization of the extent, complexity and duration of required support, prompt all WHO offices at all levels to be ready to repurpose resources and trigger WHO’s Emergency Response Procedures and emergency policies.

How we work

WHO team provides health services in north-eastern Nigeria
WHO/P. Ajello

From prevention through preparedness to early warning, response, and early recovery, the WHO Health Emergencies programme represents a fundamental change for WHO, complementing its traditional technical and normative capacities with new operational capabilities.


Health crisis in Central African Republic.
WHO/C. Black

WHO would like to thank all of the contributors that provide funding or in-kind contribution for WHO’s work for emergencies. More information about funding requirements and contributions:


Food insecurity and famine

Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan and the food security situation is of grave concern in 7 other countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen. Health is a key component in the response to famine.


Iraq crisis

Iraq’s health system is faltering because of the conflict, displacement and disease outbreaks. WHO is leading the response to provide emergency health access people affected by the crises. Health cluster partners have been coordinated, mobilized and supported with critical pharmaceuticals to sustain the response in the country.

Nigeria crisis

Humanitarian crisis in Nigeria

WHO is scaling up an emergency response to assess and respond to the health needs of thousands of people in north eastern Nigeria, formerly held by militant insurgency groups. More than half of the health facilities in Borno State, the area most severely affected, are not functioning.

South Sudan

South Sudan crisis

WHO is leading the response to provide emergency health access to victims of the clashes. Health cluster partners have been coordinated, mobilized and provided support with critical pharmaceuticals to sustain the response in the country.

Syrian Arab Republic

Crisis in Syrian Arab Republic

WHO continues to support health care services for people in need, especially those living in besieged areas. WHO has continued to focus on lifesaving health interventions while vigorously calling on all parties to the conflict to allow for the immediate and safe evacuation of the sick and wounded from all areas affected by the conflict, including eastern Aleppo. The Organization is also calling for a halt of attacks on health care workers and facilities.


Yemen crisis

The escalating conflict, in which an estimated 21.1 million people have been affected, has put more pressure on the health system and the vulnerable population seeking health care. Among many other things, WHO and health partners have provided over 750 million tons of essential medicines and equipment for an estimated 3 million beneficiaries and deployed 50 mobile teams and 20 fixed facility teams to 11 governorates.

Zika virus

Zika virus and complications

WHO is working with countries in mobilizing and coordinating experts and resources to enhance surveillance of Zika virus and disorders that could be linked to it, to improve vector control, to effectively communicate risks, to provide medical care, to fast-track research and development of vaccines and diagnostics.


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

WHO is working with clinicians and scientists in affected countries to gather and share scientific evidence to better understand the virus and the disease it causes, and to determine outbreak response priorities, treatment strategies, and clinical management approaches.

Ebola in DRC

Ebola virus disease

WHO and partners are supporting the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in all aspects of the response to recent Ebola cases. The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network has been activated to provide additional support. Strengthening of surveillance and investigation, including contact tracing are ongoing. The need and feasibility of potential Ebola ring vaccination is being discussed.

Post-emergency and recovery

Yellow fever vaccination, Sudan
WHO/C. Banluta

WHO continues to work with the partners through the recovery stage long after an outbreak, crisis, or other emergency has ended. WHO supports countries to maintain and rebuild their health services, which may have suffered as a result of the emergency.

R&D Blueprint

A research and development Blueprint for action to prevent epidemics

The R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness plan to ensure that targeted R&D can strengthen the emergency response by bringing medical technologies to patients during epidemics.