|The new emergency health kit 98: Drugs and medical supplies for 10,000 people for approximately 3 months (COE - ICRC - IDA - IFRC - MSF - Oxfam - UNICEF - UNFPA - WHO/DAP, 1998, 82 p.)|
In recent years the various organizations and agencies of the United Nations system have been called upon to respond to an increasing number of large-scale emergencies and disasters, many of which pose a serious threat to health. Much of the assistance provided in such situations by donor agencies, governments, voluntary organizations and others is in the form of drugs and medical supplies. But the practical impact of this aid is often diminished because requests do not reflect real needs or because these have not been adequately assessed. This can result in donations of unsorted, unsuitable and unintelligibly labelled drugs, or the provision of products which have passed their expiry date. Such problems are often compounded by delays in delivery and customs clearance.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which is the directing and coordinating authority for international health work within the United Nations system, took up the question of how emergency response could be facilitated through effective emergency preparedness measures. After several years of study, field testing and modifications, standard lists of essential drugs and medical supplies for use in an emergency were developed. The aim was to encourage the standardization of drugs and medical supplies used in an emergency to permit a swift and effective response with supplies that meet priority health needs. A further goal was to promote disaster preparedness, since such standardization means that kits of essential items can be kept in readiness to meet urgent requirements.
The WHO Emergency Health Kit, which resulted from this work, was developed in the early 1980s in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1988 it was revised with the help of the Emergency Preparedness Programme (WHO, Geneva), the Unit of Pharmaceuticals (WHO, Geneva), UNHCR, UNICEF, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Geneva), the Christian Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The kit has been adopted by many organizations and national authorities as a reliable, standardized, inexpensive, appropriate and quickly available source of the essential drugs and health equipment urgently needed in a disaster situation. Its contents are calculated to meet the needs of a population of 10,000 persons for three months. In 1988 it was renamed The New Emergency Health Kit because of the number and diversity of United Nations agencies and other bodies which had adopted this list of drugs and medical supplies for their emergency operations and which participated in its revision.
A booklet providing background information on the development of the kit, comments on the selection of items, treatment guidelines for prescribers, and some useful checklists for suppliers and prescribers was published in 1990. This second edition follows the same format. Chapter 1 (Essential drugs and supplies in emergency situations) is intended as a general introduction for health administrators and field officers. Chapter 2 (Comments on the selection of drugs, medical supplies and equipment included in the kit) contains more technical details and is intended for prescribers.
The latest review of the New Emergency Health Kit began in December 1996, and was brought about not so much by the need to change the concept or content of the kit, but rather to adapt the list of drugs to changes that had taken place, over the years, in the selection of drugs on the WHO Model List of Essential Drugs; and also to bring the kit in line with a new UN list of drugs recommended for use in acute emergencies (see references; Emergency Relief Items, Vol. 2, UNDP1). The opportunity was also taken to make a number of necessary revisions to the text and annexes and to add two annexes containing Guidelines for Drug Donations and Model Guidelines for the International Provision of Controlled Medicines for Emergency Care. The WHO Divisions of Child Health and Development, Control of Tropical Diseases, Emergency and Humanitarian Action, Emerging and other Communicable Diseases Surveillance and Control, and Family and Reproductive Health all contributed to revision of the 1998 text and annexes, in addition to the original partners and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
1UNDP. Emergency relief items, compendium of basic specifications, vol. 2. Medical supplies and equipment, selected essential drugs, guidelines for drug donations. New York: United Nations Development Programme; 1996.
The WHO Action Programme on Essential Drugs has coordinated the review process and has issued this interagency document. The support of all persons and organizations who have contributed to the revision process is gratefully acknowledged.
Please note: this publication can be obtained at the