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Serving the vulnerable: the World Health Organization's scaled support to countries during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

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posted on 2023-05-21, 06:16 authored by Pereira Bajard, M, Nicola StephensNicola Stephens, Eidman, J, Warren, KT, Molinaro, P, McDonough-Thayer, C, Rovaletti, R, Acharya, SP, Graaff, PJ, Samaan, G
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), created by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1991, serves as the global humanitarian coordination forum of the UN s system. The IASC brings 18 agencies together, including the World Health Organization (WHO), for humanitarian preparedness and response policies and action. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the IASC recognized the importance of providing intensified support to countries with conflict, humanitarian, or complex emergencies due to their weak health systems and fragile contexts. A Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) was rapidly developed in March 2020, which reflected the international support needed for 63 target countries deemed to have humanitarian vulnerability. This paper assessed whether WHO provided intensified technical, financial, and commodity inputs to GHRP countries (n = 63) compared to non-GHRP countries (n = 131) in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis showed that WHO supported all 194 countries regardless of humanitarian vulnerability. Health commodities were supplied to most countries globally (86%), and WHO implemented most (67%) of the $1.268 billion spent in 2020 at country level. However, proportionally more GHRP countries received health commodities and nearly four times as much was spent in GHRP countries per capita compared to non-GHRP countries ($232 vs. $60 per 1,000 capita). In countries with WHO country offices (n = 149), proportionally more GHRP countries received WHO support for developing national response plans and monitoring frameworks, training of technical staff, facilitating logistics, publication of situation updates, and participation in research activities prior to the characterization of the pandemic or first in-country COVID-19 case. This affirms WHO's capacity to scale country support according to its humanitarian mandate. Further work is needed to assess the impact of WHO's inputs on health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will strengthen WHO's scaled support to countries during future health emergencies.


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Frontiers in Public Health



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Tasmanian School of Medicine


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Copyright © 2022 Pereira Bajard, Stephens, Eidman, Warren, Molinaro, McDonough-Thayer, Rovaletti, Acharya, Graaff and Samaan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License ( The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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