When chaos reigns: responding to complex emergencies.

S. Hansch, B. Burkholder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This article discusses the impact of Complex Humanitarian Emergencies on the delivery of humanitarian aids. Complex emergencies were the results of long-term political and social disputes. Its impact brings about public health crises like epidemics, malnutrition, and even widespread desperation. In fact, there are four aspects of these crises which complicate public health programs: 1) emergencies are long and recurring; 2) access to the most vulnerable population is often restricted; 3) restructuring health systems in complex emergencies can be futile; and 4) complex emergencies often result in mass forced migration. What makes matters worse is the breakdown of health networks which collapse early in complex emergencies, leading to extensive losses of human health resources. Not only that, health facilities and transportation, infrastructure are often decimated in complex emergencies, and regional hospitals, district health posts, laboratories, and primary care outposts are similarly abandoned or destroyed. Moreover, because it is difficult to predict the course of these emergencies, ascertaining the optimal time to intervene and to invest in materials and facilities that could be lost to renewed fighting can be impossible. To solve this problem requires a coordinated effort. It should also focus on resources, early warning systems, preparedness measures, ongoing career training of relief workers, and prepositioning of relief supplies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-11, 53
JournalHarvard International Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Industrial relations


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