Emergency and humanitarian action

Second SEARHEF Working Group Regional Meeting

Delhi, India, 23-24 August 2012

The WHO South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund (SEARHEF), established in 2008, has allowed for immediate response to critical needs in 13 different emergencies in the Region in the past four years. Provided within 24 hours of an emergency request by a Member State, the fund’s resources have been channeled even before UN funding mechanisms were activated. The fund, however, does not replace these well-established mechanisms, such as the Flash Appeals, the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) or the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). SEARHEF is intended to allow countries to meet the immediate financial needs of an emergency. Such has been the case in acute crises such as the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar; in health interventions for victims of the conflict in Sri Lanka; for the 2011 floods in Thailand and DPR Korea, and most recently to provide support to health care services during the floods caused by Cyclone Nilam in the Maldives in November.

The fund has two different contribution components:

  • The Assessed Contribution (AC) component which is allocated biannually from the WHO regular budget.
  • The Voluntary Contribution (VC) component which consists of donations by Member countries, other agencies and donors.

The mobilization of resources through these two components was one of the main discussion points during the second SEARHEF Working Group meeting that took place in New Delhi last August. It was noted that the only VCs received so far for SEARHEF were from Thailand and Timor Leste. Hence, increased advocacy amongst stakeholders, potential donors and external partners was agreed upon to increase the voluntary contributions and make the fund financially sustainable. The idea of countries providing a yearly contribution to the VC component was also discussed. Additionally, it was decided that guidelines and an advocacy package for fund raising, including a case study booklet, a description of the fund and a donation guide, would be developed by the Secretariat. Furthermore, the selection of an appropriate goodwill ambassador for resource mobilization was considered. These and other points were laid out in the SEARHEF Resource Mobilization Strategic Approaches document drafted by the Working Group.

Several other points were raised concerning policy and procedural improvements to the fund, as well as on the role of the Working Group. Among the most important are the decision to clarify the purpose of the fund within its guidelines, as one that is targeted for health and health related needs. The development of a simpler template for requests and proposals was also decided, as well as the consideration of establishing country working groups to oversee SEARHEF related activities. The Working Group itself decided that it would celebrate yearly meetings in order to continue to oversee and guide the management of policies and strategies for the fund.

With the establishment, revision and management of SEARHEF, Health Ministers and policy-makers from South-East Asia have demonstrated their will to continue to work for the improvement of emergency response in the region. Admittedly, without this effort, many more lives and livelihoods would have been lost in the past four years. This tool represents an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and set the bases for future regional initiatives that could save even more lives.

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