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Humanitarian crises are becoming more prevalent and, frequently, more complex, in zones of mis-governance, lack of government presence, and even active conflict, marked by public mistrust and insecurity. The WHO and other health emergency responders lack the capacities and mandate to adequately respond. The current Ebola outbreak in an area of an active insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is just such a crisis. The State Department has banned U.S. personnel from the outbreak zone due to safety concerns, leaving the population feeling abandoned, potentially increasing the threat to the few brave health workers who remain.

We need is to rethink health emergency response during complex crises and devise new strategies. We offer a blueprint for responding to health emergencies amidst complex humanitarian crises. This blueprint includes peacekeepers who have the mandate and modalities fit for the purpose of quelling a health emergency; “smart” diplomacy to negotiate with belligerents and community members to ensure health and humanitarian worker safety; and deploying all needed health, security, and diplomatic assets. We also call for international development assistance for health, including to support states in developing core public health capacities, creating inclusive health systems, and meeting other need like clean water and nutritious food. Political actors will need to assume their responsibilities if humanitarians and health workers are to carry out theirs.

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Hastings Center Report, January-February 2019, 6-9.