The Emergency Health Unit

If you only have two and a half minutes please skip my blog and watch this video clip:

Children Make the World Go Round

This isn’t the most recent Save the Children video, but I think it says it all about why Save the Children is here…and I defy you not to smile whilst watching this.

Then please watch this (the smile will disappear), and consider donating:

Indonesia Tsunami Appeal

It’s high time I talked about my assignment at Save the Children UK. Though my role title has changed, the spec is pretty much what I’d been handed back in April during my initial conversations with Save the Children. But first a bit of background to explain where I fit in…

Save the Children focuses on three ‘breakthroughs’ – to ensure that every child survives, learns and is protected, prioritising the most deprived and marginalised children around the world. It works on child rights, child protection, education, child poverty as well as health and nutrition. A key part of its work is humanitarian development and response to emergencies.

In 2015, Save the Children established an Emergency Health Unit (EHU) with the aim of significantly increasing the impact of the organisation’s frontline emergency response. The EHU is the means by which Save the Children can be on the ground, saving lives, within 72 hours of a disaster, conflict of disease outbreak.

The EHU is made up of 3 regional standing teams each consisting of 7 clinical and operations staff who are trained together and deploy together, along with pre-positioned supplies and according to clear protocols. The teams deliver 3 types of health response:

  • A primary care module, treating common diseases and malnutrition
  • A disease control module, to respond to outbreaks of disease such as cholera
  • A mass vaccination module, with capacity to deliver 10,000 vaccinations in six weeks

Three years on, the EHU is playing a key role in the Save the Children’s global emergency response work. It has undertaken over 20 deployments across the globe, trained over 2000 health staff and community health workers, and directly benefited over 1.2 million people with vaccinations or health and nutrition services.

Here’s a very vivid summary of the work of the EHU.

The EHU receives the majority of its pre-emergency funding from major donors and corporations, including GSK. Post-emergency funding mostly comes from public appeals and the UK, US and Australian governments. But it’s essential that the EHU becomes sustainably funded with sufficient long-term in-advance funding to cover fixed costs and allow for rapid deployment, and it’s proven really tough to get this money before an emergency strikes.

The EHU is currently supported by the UK, US and Australia – three of the ‘members’ of Save the Children. However, it needs broader engagement and ownership from members across the movement in order to ensure its long-term sustainability and capacity to scale up operations. Sadly, the need is there, with natural disasters and conflict becoming increasingly common and having a phenomenal impact on children and their families.

Funding, health expertise and partnerships with other health actors and international donors are critical to the ability of the EHU to operate in the future. This is where I come in: my objective is to develop a strategic plan to engage more members and seek their support.

This has proven more challenging than it might seem. Save the Children is a complex organisation and each member has far too much to achieve, limited funds and very different priorities (many don’t even work ‘in’ health). Finding the right people to talk to across the globe is challenging enough! But whilst I’m trying to navigate the who’s who of Save, I’m keeping busy with a few other side projects.

I’m over half way through and Christmas will be here before I know it! I just hope I can put something in place that will help this team continue to do the seemingly impossible in the toughest places on earth, making such a difference to children who sometimes have very little other hope.

Here’s an overview of the difference all GSK employees can make by volunteering, including some stories from last year’s PULSE volunteers, the 2017 Volunteering Impact Report.


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