An unprecedented number of humanitarian emergencies of large magnitude and duration is causing the largest number of people in a generation to be forcibly displaced. Yet the existing humanitarian system was created for a different time and is no longer fit for purpose. On the basis of lessons learned from recent crises, particularly the Syrian conflict and the Ebola epidemic, I recommend four sets of actions that would make the humanitarian system relevant for future public health responses: (1) operationalise the concept of centrality of protection; (2) integrate affected persons into national health systems by addressing the humanitarian-development nexus; (3) remake, do not simply revise, leadership and coordination; and (4) make interventions efficient, effective, and sustainable. For these recommendations to be implemented, governments, UN agencies, multilateral organisations, and international non-governmental organisations will need to put aside differences and relinquish authority, influence, and funding.
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