U.S. Humanitarian Assistance and Global Health Policy: Opportunities and Barriers for More Effective Coordination

U.S. support for global health and international humanitarian assistance efforts has grown over the last decade, but the mechanisms that staff, administer, and oversee each of these sectors have remained largely isolated and distinct from one another. While there are differences in the objectives and approaches of these two sectors, it is also true that their activities are integrally linked. Many times, the countries, communities and populations served by each are the same or closely overlap. In addition, there is a subset of countries where recurrent and chronic crises draw both significant U.S humanitarian and global health assistance year after year. As such, identifying opportunities for creating greater synergies and linkages between U.S. humanitarian and global health programs can help to improve longer-term health outcomes and increase the cost-effectiveness of U.S. investments.

While humanitarian actors have debated issues around linking the disaster response and longer-term development for decades, now may be an opportune moment for the U.S. to move the discussion forward and consider a more integrated, cooperative approach. Many donors and practitioners in the humanitarian sector are already focusing more on building “resilience” and reducing the risk of disasters through country-led plans, approaches that dovetail nicely with an increasing emphasis on country ownership and health systems strengthening by global health programs.

As a step toward understanding and addressing these issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted an analysis of the policy and financing landscape at the intersection of these two sectors. The Foundation also convened a roundtable of experts in July 2013 for a policy discussion to explore the linkages between the U.S. humanitarian and global health sectors and responses, as well as to identify opportunities, challenges, and potential next steps for the U.S. government and others.

This summary document consists of two parts:

  • Part I presents the key findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation review and analysis of the policy and financing landscape where humanitarian assistance and global health assistance meet, with an emphasis on the U.S.
  • Part II summarizes the information shared and issues raised by participants during the July roundtable discussion, which focused on opportunities, challenges, and potential next steps for more effective coordination between humanitarian assistance and global health programs, for the U.S. government and others.

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