Europe strengthens its role in international outbreak response and calls for GOARN 2.0

WHO

“It is clear that no single organization can ensure health security alone. But, jointly we can. For this, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) needs to make sure that the right technical support and skills are on the ground rapidly where and when they are necessary. The world needs a strong and competent GOARN, and we are keen to support it.” With these words, Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Communicable Diseases and Health Security at WHO/Europe, opened the first European meeting of GOARN on 11 October 2016 in St Petersburg, Russian Federation.

Over 100 experts in emergency response from more than 40 countries attended the meeting, demonstrating the importance that the international community attributes to health emergency response. Participants called for a more robust system of emergency response, including GOARN, and a dialogue with partners – particularly those from eastern European and Russian-speaking countries – to strengthen Europe’s contribution to international outbreak response.

European participation within GOARN

GOARN is a network of technical institutions around the world that are prepared to respond to health emergencies. The international outbreak response is led by WHO through GOARN resources, and GOARN ensures that the right technical skills are deployed where and when they are needed.

More than 700 public health events – primarily infectious disease epidemics – were recorded in countries of the WHO European Region between 2001 and mid-2016. Globally, nearly 6000 public health events were recorded.

During this time, WHO mobilized GOARN for over 130 of the most significant international events worldwide, including those related to severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian and pandemic influenza, Ebola virus, Zika virus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, cholera and yellow fever.

European GOARN partners have contributed to all of the major response operations, which involved the deployment of over 2500 experts to protect affected populations and European citizens alike. European GOARN partners have also been deployed to monitor trends of diseases that could lead to outbreaks.

GOARN 2.0

Participants at the meeting in St Petersburg requested full implementation of plans to develop GOARN to a more advanced level. Referred to as GOARN 2.0, the initiative will follow the recent reform of WHO’s work in emergency management.

GOARN 2.0 builds on the network’s strengths and ensures that experts operate according to WHO standards of outbreak response. It encompasses the following activities, to be coordinated globally and regionally:

  • expanding the network by conducting outreach to state and non-state actors and mapping institutions’ strengths and gaps;
  • sharing information on GOARN policies, operational procedures and WHO support through a WHO/GOARN web platform that will include Russian translations;
  • facilitating the mechanism to ensure that the most suitable experts contribute to risk assessments;
  • expanding training available in Russian as an entry point for new partners from eastern Europe; and
  • advocating for GOARN functions, partners’ commitments and benefits through communications materials in multiple languages.

WHO organized the meeting in cooperation with the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, and with support from the Government of the Russian Federation.