First Regional Health Cluster Forum on Humanitarian Emergencies
Dr Shin Young-soo
World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific
Honourable Assistant Minister For Global Health,
Dr Masato Mugitani,
Honourable Governor, Mr Toshizo IDO,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It is an honour to welcome you to the First Regional Health Cluster Forum on Humanitarian Emergencies.
The Western Pacific Region has been frequently beset by disasters of all kinds —typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis.
The disasters have caused massive destruction and loss of life, particularly here in Japan, where more than 27 000 people lost their lives following the devastating tsunami of March 2011.
The Region will continue to face such threats.
Managing health emergencies and disasters has been one of my priority areas of work.
To strengthen the fundamental national and regional system, as well as capacity for emergency preparedness and response, a new Division, called Health Security and Emergencies, has been created in the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.
Responding to emergencies requires more than decisiveness. It requires organization, collaboration and coordination.
Since 2005, we have been using the cluster approach to improve the coordination of our response. While the approach has been proven strong in enhancing coordination, filling of gaps, resource mobilization and information-sharing, there have also been challenges and issues about its use.
It is to address these challenges that we have called you here for the Regional Health Cluster Forum, the first of its kind.
The World Health Organization remains committed to its role as the Cluster Lead Agency for health.
We believe that the creation of a clear operational framework will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the health cluster.
It is only appropriate that we are meeting here in Kobe, for our guiding document for disaster risk reduction—the Hyogo Framework for Action—is named from this very prefecture.
The city and Hyogo Prefecture have been named champions of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s campaign for safer cities.
This spirit of preparedness and vigilance is something we continue to aspire to, and we hope it will guide our activities throughout the forum.
Response is often a complicated matter, covering aspects ranging from assessment, service delivery, logistics, information management, resource mobilization and risk communications.
This is complicated even more by the number of agencies acting in the same area.
While our many hands do make for a lighter load, we must work well together to prevent the waste of funds and duplication of efforts.
While our many combined resources constitute a formidable force of information, funds and logistics, we must share information and coordinate well to ensure we deliver services to everywhere there is need.
We must act as one. We must agree on priorities.
We represent organizations of diverse characteristics. We have different mandates, different strengths and different paradigms.
This diversity is our strength, if we use it wisely. Our differences in outlook and philosophy, while challenging, should not be an insurmountable obstacle to our agreeing on the priorities for health. After all, we are united in our twin goals of minimizing damage and saving lives.
We must strengthen our partnerships. This is the first of what we hope to be many dialogues between our agencies.
Only with more communication can there be more understanding, and with this understanding we can avoid conflicts caused by miscommunication and better enhance our collaboration.
And within this partnership, we must define our roles. Experience has taught us that we cannot be all things to everyone.
The cluster approach was created to allow each partner’s strengths to fill in the gaps of the others.
Through our talks we hope to further clarify and embrace the roles our agencies play in the grand scheme of disaster risk reduction and emergency response.
Our time here will be filled with specially designed workshops for sharing our experiences on the implementation of the health cluster in the Region, developing a national operational framework for Member States and stakeholders, and strengthening regional networks for further implementation of the health cluster approach in the Region.
We need your expertise and your thoughts, your insights and your experiences, your stories and your research.
We need you to help us build a framework within which we can work together effectively and efficiently.
It is only by your contributions that the ideal of the health cluster will be fully realized.
With our forces combined within an effective and strong partnership, we can continue to work towards a system that can rise to any further challenges that may be brought by the emergencies now and in the future.
Thank you and a pleasant day to all.