Fund set up for emergency preparedness

Kathmandu, September 9

In a critical step for emergency preparedness across the WHO South-East Asia Region, member countries, including Nepal, today agreed to establish a dedicated funding stream aimed at building preparedness for health emergencies in the region.

“To date, post-disaster funding through South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund has done an excellent job of helping countries respond to health emergencies once they’ve occurred, as we saw most recently in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The new funding stream will allow countries to invest in infrastructure and human resources that will enhance preparedness,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia, said.

In recent years, earthquakes, cyclones and floods have caused health emergencies in the South-East Asia Region. The region has also been threatened by a range of emerging diseases, including SARS, MERS CoV, pandemic influenza and Zika virus.

Establishing a joint funding stream under the South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund to help countries better prepare for such events was seen by member countries as a key priority. At present, SEARHEF funds are disbursed only once a disaster has occurred.

“Enhancing health security is a critical component of our public health mission, and a core part of WHO’s work in the South-East Asia Region. The new funding stream for emergency preparedness established by member countries is an expression of solidarity shared within the region, as well as recognition that preparedness is less costly than response,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

Another resolution passed by the session called for promoting physical activity across the region. Insufficient physical activity is a major contributor to rising rates of non-communicable diseases in the region, with four-fifth of adolescents not getting enough of it.

“Effective promotion of physical activity needs commitment at the highest level, with leadership from the health sector absolutely crucial. In this Regional Committee Meeting, health ministers have led by example, being role models for physical activity by themselves,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

The session also passed a resolution on health workforce strengthening which is vital to achieving universal health coverage – a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal.