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UNICEF and partners push for scaling up of the community-based health workforce for emergencies

GENEVA, 20 October 2011 - UNICEF and its partners are calling for the urgent scaling up of community-based health workforces because of their potential to mitigate the impact of emergencies. When an emergency strikes, these workers are already in position in their communities and therefore well-placed to provide emergency health services in the critical first few hours and days before external help arrives.

UNICEF and its partners the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA), UNHCR, WHO, IFRC, and other supporting organisations--are dedicated to increasing the resilience of communities to protect themselves against the impact of emergencies. To highlight their collaboration, the partners recently released a Joint Statement on Scaling up the community-based health workforce for emergencies.  

“The goal of the partners is to shine a light on the critical role played by all the actors that make up the community-based health workforce and their ability to improve health outcomes before, during and after an emergency,” said Heather Papowitz, senior health advisor for emergencies at UNICEF. “Local, national and international stakeholders can take concrete steps to strengthen the capacity of the local health system to manage the risks of emergencies, thereby enabling communities to prepare for emergencies and take action when disasters strike.”

A number of community-based actors already contribute to health outcomes in emergencies, including community health workers, trained volunteers, community-based organizations as well as actors from key sectors (e.g. water, sanitation and hygiene, agriculture, food security, shelter and education). One of the goals of the partners is ensure that their roles and responsibilities are recognized and linked in order to have a greater impact.

The Joint Statement is designed to draw attention to the vital role that the community-based health workforce plays in all phases of emergency risk management (prevention, preparedness, response and recovery); promote the scale-up of the community-based health workforce by recognizing all those who make up this workforce, training and equipping them for action at the local level, and including them in planning for all types of emergencies; and encourage governments and supporting partners to reinforce the community-based health workforce by strengthening and preparing existing health systems, and providing resources in support of local action to reduce health risks and manage emergencies.

The Joint Statement also provides examples of actions that the community-based health workforce can do before an emergency to reduce underlying vulnerability, increase access to primary health care (PHC) and for prevention and preparedness and then after the onset of an emergency for response and recovery.

"If you want to build resilience, there's no better way than getting communities involved in the decisions that affect them,” said Dermot Carty, deputy director of emergency operations at UNICEF. “But this means investing in these workforces and communities before emergencies happen.”
Following the release of the joint statement, the partners plans to continue to work together at the global and national levels, develop necessary guidance and tools and strengthen the capacity of governments and partners scale up this workforce to protect communities from emergencies.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Heather Papowitz,




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