Building capacity to protect public health during mass gatherings in Azerbaijan

Vugar Ibadov

Azerbaijan hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012.

Baku, Azerbaijan, has increasingly become the setting of large-scale international sports and cultural events. A WHO/Europe technical team visited Azerbaijan on 26–30 October 2014 to help the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities establish measures to protect the health of participants, spectators and the general public during such mass gatherings.

The immediate aim was to support implementation of public health protection efforts related to the first Global Forum on Youth Policies, which took place in Baku from 28 to 30 October 2014. Convened by the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Council of Europe and hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the context of Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the event brought together more than 700 international participants.

The WHO team of technical and communication experts from the Regional Office for Europe and country offices in the Republic of Moldova and Azerbaijan discussed plans with high-level representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry’s Republican Anti-plague Station and the Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP.

2015 European Games

A longer-term objective was to help prepare for the European Games, to be held in Baku on 12–28 June 2015. Over 6000 athletes will compete in this first major European multisport event.

The WHO/Europe team met with representatives of the organizing committee, the director of Athlete Services and Operations and representatives of the medical team of the Baku 2015 European Games to discuss public health preparedness, WHO recommendations for public health measures during mass gathering events and overall preparation for this major event. The partners also reviewed recommendations made last year during a preliminary WHO assessment mission in September 2013 requested by Azerbaijan.

The team concluded that Azerbaijan has prepared its medical services well, including for the prevention and control of highly infectious diseases. WHO will, however, continue to work closely with the authorities in Azerbaijan to support further training of medical personnel on infection control, personal protection and handling of highly infectious material during sample taking, transport and testing.