South-East Asia Regional Emergency Fund (SEARHEF) - FAQ

What is SEARHEF?

The South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund is a mechanism that allows for a more rapid response to natural and man-made disasters.

The fund has been established by the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office and its 11 Member countries.

Through the WHO country offices, the countries can obtain financial support from the fund within 24 hours of an emergency.

The fund will be used for emergencies,whether natural or man-made, in which the following may occur:

  • Declaration of a state of emergency;
  • official request for external assistance by the national government; or
  • appointment of a humanitarian coordinator by the UN Secretary-General for that particular emergency.

The fund is designed to provide financial support in the aftermath of an emergency for the first three months.

Funding through SEARHEF will meet immediate needs and fill critical gaps. It is not intended to fund bulk relief, long-term recovery, reconstruction or rehabilitation work.

The fund does not replace existing and wellestablished mechanisms such as flash appeals, the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) and Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). These will continue to be the main funding sources for emergency and humanitarian programmes.

How will SEARHEF be funded?

The fund will be composed of two distinct portions:

  • One million US$ per biennium from WHO regular budget. All 11 countries have agreed to contribute a fixed percentage to complete this target; and
  • US$ 1.5 to US$ 2 million is initially targeted as additional support to be mobilized by WHO/SEARO from donors, countries and other agencies.

Why a SEARHEF?

Asia is prone to the entire range of man-made and natural hazards from annual floods and landslides, typhoons and fires to irregularly occurring events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and technological accidents.

The earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 that affected more than six countries of the Region was one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. It prompted a renewed debate on how to improve future response operations. The need to focus on improving emergency preparedness emerged as a key factor, and a number of important milestones have subsequently been achieved in the Region, notably the development of a framework of benchmarks now being implemented by all the Member countries.

However, the countries of the Region also identified another aspect directly related to the initial response to disasters. Current emergency funding mechanisms take time to materialize, and valuable opportunities to reduce the negative impact on people's health are lost. Easy access to immediate funds would enable countries to carry out life-saving actions and lay the foundation for an adequate response to health needs in the first phase of a response operation, while waiting for the more substantial international funding that often only arrives at a later stage.

In view of these issues, several requests were received from Member countries in various forums to establish a WHO fund for emergencies:

  • The Regional Consultation for Emergency Preparedness and Response (27-20 June 2006) culminated in the Bali Declaration, which stated the need to "promote the creation of a Regional Solidarity Fund for Emergency Response".
  • The need was reiterated during the 24th Health Ministers' Meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh in August 2006.

How will countries access funds?

In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, the affected country or countries can submit requests for emergency funding through the WHO country office.

The first immediate release is limited to US$ 175 000 for the first month. A second request also has a ceiling of US$ 175 000, making the total amount of funding available for one event US$ 350 000.

SEARHEF funding cannot be used beyond three months from the onset of the emergency.

Reporting requirements for the expenditure of the allocated funds will follow WHO established procedures.

How will the Fund be managed?

A SEARHEF working group will be constituted to oversee the fund, with one member from all 11 countries. The Emergency and Humanitarian Action Programme of SEARO will serve as the secretariat of SEARHEF. As the secretariat of the SEARHEF Working Group, EHA will:

  • Translate policy guidance from the Working Group into practical guidelines;
  • oversee the prompt disbursal to countries;
  • facilitate the mobilization of additional resources;
  • facilitate periodic review of principles and guidelines; and
  • report to the senior management of SEARO and to the Working Group at regular intervals.

How was the SEARHEF developed?

A WHO SEARO in-house working group was constituted to formulate the details of the proposal to establish a regional emergency fund.

A number of consultations took place to discuss the draft proposals, for example during the Fifty-eighth Meeting of the Regional Director with WHO Representatives in November 2006, and at the Regional Consultation for the South- East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund held on 12-13 April 2007.

A working group consisting of members from six countries of the Region (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka and Thailand) met in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2007 and finalized the draft proposal. The proposal outlines the policies, guidelines and principles that will govern the fund.

The proposal was presented at the joint meeting of Health Secretaries and at the Consultative Committee for Programme Development and Management in New Delhi, 2-6 July 2007.

At the Twenty-fifth Health Ministers' Meeting and the Sixtieth Regional Committee (RC) in Thimphu, Bhutan, 31 August to 2 September 2007, the establishment of the fund was endorsed by all 11 member countries.

Resolution SEA/RC60/R7 was passed by the Regional Committee to enable the creation of the fund.

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