3. Global humanitarian trends: a changing panorama

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In past decades, very few agencies or organizations worked on issues related to health in disasters and emergencies and humanitarian response. This situation has changed dramatically, characterized by a proliferation of actors in disaster preparedness and response; an expanded UN system, international NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement; and increasingly active bilateral donors. The effective coordination of so many agencies has become a major challenge, especially at the interface between the international community and national government authorities. Competition for funding is progressively increasing.

Other factors, such as terrorism, SARS, pandemic influenza and climate change are becoming more prominent at the same time that the pace of change within the global humanitarian community has accelerated. These changes, which are partly the result of explosive growth in this sector, can also be potentially beneficial to disaster managers, country institutions and in particular, the ministries of health. Countries may not be fully aware of these global changes and consequently have not yet gauged the implications on their day-to-day operations, and, more importantly, on the response to disasters.