Treatment center in a box and other new ideas

WHO and WFP INITIATE2 seeks quick solutions for emergency response

A team of technical and health experts from WHO set up a COVID-19 treatment center on a football pitch in São Tomé and Príncipe, which was then managed by an emergency medical team. ©WHO/2020/Jean Pierre Veyrenche

A treatment center that can be set up in hours, a kit to turn an ordinary vehicle into an ambulance, ultra-cold chain and solar power technologies, and a base camp for rescuers. These are all ideas that could speed up emergency response and save lives.

To this end, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) have launched INITIATE2 in 2021, to strengthen partnerships between emergency responders and humanitarian agencies and to develop innovative solutions that can be rapidly deployed in health emergencies.

A field hospital in Ghana, run by WFP staff to treat aid workers who may contract COVID-19 in the line of duty. Facilities like this will be handed over to the government, including generators, prefabricated offices and mobile ambulances. ©WFP/2020/Michael Dakwa

The first project deployed under the initiative is a rapid deployment infectious disease treatment centre. This center will be able to provide high quality care for a range of illnesses at all stages of an outbreak.

Once the specifications have been validated, a prototype of the center will be tested and developed, for possible use in a large-scale emergency simulation exercise. During the simulation, logisticians will be trained in the deployment and dismantling of installations; while health workers will be trained in their use and management.

The initiative will build on the existing infrastructure of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) in Brindisi, Italy, which hosts a dedicated humanitarian training center and the UNHRD Lab, a research and development unit where products innovative emergency response tools are developed and tested.

In 2021, WHO conducted training on Ebola virus disease case management in Côte d’Ivoire, during and in response to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in neighboring Guinea. ©WHO/2021/WCO Ivory Coast

“TO THROW2 combines the expertise and experiences of WHO and WFP and their partners, to create standardized technical solutions to support relief efforts – with a holistic and inclusive focus on people, skills and technology. Partners complement each other with their own unique and specialized capabilities or resources in this new ready-to-use approach,” says Dr Ibrahima Soce-Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response.

TO THROW2 enables humanitarian actors to acquire and share knowledge, and to translate these skills into local communities to improve emergency response at the national level. It builds on the end-to-end integrated technical and operational capabilities of the COVID-19 supply chain system, also led by WHO and WFP.

A WFP staff member working with a member of the Ivory Coast Medical Store inspecting supplies for distribution and treatment in the local community. ©WFP/SAPH/2021

It also creates space for innovation to grow, as partner organizations can pitch their own projects and ideas and benefit from their collective expertise and dedicated resources.

WHO develops standards for emergency response and preparedness, provides technical advice, develops the health components of trainings and prepares teams to deploy in emergencies. WFP supports the design, development and procurement of prototypes and provides space and facilities for innovations and training.

Important medical equipment arrived in Ghana in May 2020, at the start of the pandemic. The UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra supports emergency preparedness and response for West and Central Africa regions. ©WFP/2020/Derrick Botchway

INITIATE partner organizations2 will have an active role in the development of technical specifications and the contribution of their respective sectoral expertise in the content of the training. These partners include ALIMA, Bring Hope Foundation, CUAMM, DG ECHO, FAO, FDFA Switzerland, GOAL, OIM, ICRC, IFRC, IRC, IMC, Medair, Medical Aid Films, MSF, Samaritan’s Purse, Save the Children International, UNICEF, USAID , and Word Vision International.

“It’s about using the collective knowledge and expertise to find solutions that will work in a variety of settings and meet the needs of the community of health and humanitarian partners during future health emergencies,” says Alex Marianelli, Director of the WFP supply chain. “COVID-19 has shown us how much we can achieve when we all pull together to respond, and it is in this spirit that we want to strengthen this collaboration through INITIATE.2 project.”

Long before COVID-19, WHO and WFP worked with UN partners and other humanitarian organizations. During Cyclone Idai in 2019, WFP sent WHO medical supplies to support the emergency response in Mutare, Zimbabwe. ©MAP/2019/Alicia Stafford

This holistic and collaborative approach creates an end-to-end process that will support preparedness, response and resilience. “Working with our partners, we will be able to empower international and national technical experts and emergency responders for lasting positive impact in the communities we serve,” says Dr Fall.

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