GOARN Turns 20

Two Decades Tackling Global Health Emergencies Together: WHO Partner GOARN Turns 20

WHO has many successful partnerships, but one in particular stands out. Since its inception 20 years ago, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has responded to crises in 85 different countries. It has deployed more than 2300 experts to help characterize and control disease outbreaks and to support countries to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. Almost 900 deployments through GOARN mechanisms were from institutions based in the WHO European Region.

This week, as the network reaches a milestone and the world is ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, we reflect on the fact that “no single country or organization alone can protect people’s health in emergencies,” as Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe said. “For 2 decades European GOARN partners have been deployed in major response operations, tracking potential disease outbreaks and making our Region and the world a safer place. I applaud their invaluable contribution.”

Providing reliable data during COOVID-19 Pandemic 

The Europe Region has successfully strengthened its role in international outbreak response over the past decade. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), a member of GOARN, worked alongside other teams from WHO/GOARN during the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, particularly in Guinea, and also in Haiti and other countries.

When COVID-19 hit the European Region, the ECDC deployed experts in epidemiology to Italy within the WHO/Europe-led mission. It also sent experts in infection prevention and control to Greece, to help define cases and improve testing policies and contact tracing using Go Data, outbreak investigation software developed by GOARN for field data collection. “GOARN and other partners have to be proactive in developing preparedness and readiness plans whilst the ongoing crisis is far from being over,” said Dr Josep Jansa, principal expert on preparedness at the ECDC.

Capitalising on collective action 

GOARN is able to call on the expertise of more than 200 technical institutions and networks around the world. Its members include global, regional and national public health institutions; specialist public health networks in epidemiology, infection control and biomedical sciences; networks of laboratories; many United Nations organizations; and international nongovernmental organizations.

At times of international outbreaks, GOARN pools human and technical resources at the request of affected WHO Member States, making sure that the right technical support and skills are on the ground rapidly, where and when they are needed for identification, confirmation and effective crisis response.

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