World Humanitarian Day celebrates people helping people


Mobile mental health services are helping people affected by conflict in Kyrgyzstan

WHO helps countries in strengthening their capacity to deal with emergencies

Health professionals provide vital health care in communities every day. In humanitarian crises and disasters, their services are in even greater demand: treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for the urgent health needs of the most vulnerable people.

WHO/Europe works with countries to strengthen the emergency preparedness of national health systems. WHO gives priority to ensuring that health care personnel are adequately trained and proficient in emergency management in efforts to build local capacity. If health facilities fail and stop functioning during crises, this can further aggravate the humanitarian consequences for the affected communities.

This year, on World Humanitarian Day, WHO and partners have published Psychological first aid: guide for field workers. This guide explains how to provide basic support to people in the immediate aftermath of extremely stressful events.

WHO/Europe support for Kyrgyzstan following conflict

As the lead agency of the Health Cluster and a member of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, WHO coordinates the humanitarian health response in countries affected by disasters and conflicts. Recent ethnic tensions and conflict in Kyrgyzstan have underlined once again the importance of mobilizing resources so that the health system can recover quickly. With support from health partners and donors, WHO supported local health authorities in mobilizing essential health supplies and providing necessary health services by establishing mobile teams in the crisis-affected areas in the southern part of the country.

WHO is currently managing a project funded by the Russian Federation in southern Kyrgyzstan to provide mental health screening, counselling and treatment to those affected by the conflict. So far, three mobile teams and two mental health centres in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad, together with the services of a local nongovernmental organization, have ensured that more than 6000 people have received counselling services and more than 30 000 have been screened since the teams began working in mid-April 2011.

These services were also invaluable when, on top of the conflict-related problems, a strong earthquake struck the Batken district of the region on 22 July 2011. In the aftermath, two mobile teams were sent to the most severely affected villages and towns to provide psychological assistance, including mental health counselling, psychotherapy and drug prescription. Members of the mobile teams also instructed local health facilities on how to deal with people with mental health problems related to the earthquake.

The project is due to be successfully completed in October 2011, and WHO is currently trying to identify potential further support to continue with monitoring and supporting the teams and centres to guarantee an effective continuation of these much-needed services in the region.

World Humanitarian Day

World Humanitarian Day is a celebration of people helping people. Natural disasters, conflicts and other emergencies threaten the lives and health of millions of people every year. In the middle of such crises, thousands of dedicated humanitarian workers strive to care for those who have been affected and to support local authorities in delivering assistance.

On World Humanitarian Day, 19 August, WHO and other international bodies highlight the role performed by humanitarian workers and remember aid workers who have been killed or injured while performing their vital work.