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World Health Official: 2013 Saw ‘Unprecedented Period’ Of Humanitarian Disasters

March 13, 2014

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A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official on Wednesday called 2013 an “unprecedented period” in terms of humanitarian disasters, with crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Syria overwhelming the system.

“I’ve been in this field for over twenty years and I’ve never had a twelve month period like we’ve had the last year,” Dr. Richard J. Brennan, Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response at the WHO, told a press briefing in Washington on Wednesday. Under the WHO’s grading system, Brennan said, one or two “Level 3″ emergencies — events that completely overwhelm local capacity to provide health services, an “all-hands on deck” for aid workers — can be expected every three to four years. The last 13 months have seenfour, including the typhoon in the Philippines, leaving the humanitarian agencies stretched to capacity.

And despite the staggering number of crises happening simultaneously, funding has been hard to come by — the U.N.’s unprecedented $13 billion request for crises around the world is still vastly underfunded.

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