International Rescue Committee

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Meeting: 
Seventy-second World Health Assembly (A72/1)
Agenda Item: 
- WHO’s work in health emergencies
Statement: 

The International Rescue Committee would like to recognize the efforts of all people responding to emergencies throughout the world, especially those at the front-line.

The IRC has worked in the DRC since 1996, responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance. For the Ebola outbreak response, we support 59 health facilities including 10 hospitals across 23 health zones, focusing on triage, case identification, IPC & WASH, community engagement, and protection for women and children.

Almost 8 months into the response, we believe that the needle needs resetting: We recognize the efforts of government and WHO in coordination. However, these have not been able to deal adequately with the complex humanitarian emergency in which this public health emergency is occurring. Coordination mechanisms need to be inclusive of NGO partners, many of whom have long-term understanding of and acceptance by communities. Efforts must go beyond technical coordination and encompass civil-military coordination and access negotiation.

Insecurity has hampered outbreak response for many months but has seen a clear escalation since February, including targeting Ebola responders. Consistent, meaningful and customized community engagement should be at the centre of Ebola response to build confidence and facilitate acceptance in communities with traditionally low levels of trust in outsiders.

The lack of prioritization of protection as well as broader humanitarian services within outbreak response to address basic needs is a missed opportunity to build community trust. These strengthen community support for reintegration of affected individuals and build broader acceptance of humanitarian actors and Ebola response staff within communities, as they can reinforce critical messaging and ensure that outbreak response is not neglecting groups that face discrimination or barriers to services.