Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network deployments during the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO Western Pacific Region
Keywords:outbreak response, deployment, COVID-19, Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, World Health Organization, emergency response
Problem: The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has responded to more than 100 outbreaks during the past 23 years. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic presented unprecedented operational constraints that challenged GOARN’s core mission to rapidly deploy technical experts from its partners to support national in-country responses to public health emergencies. This paper describes the type and duration of GOARN deployments to and within the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Western Pacific Region during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Context: Despite strict border closures and ever-changing vaccination and quarantine requirements, GOARN continued to deploy international technical assistance to strengthen COVID-19 response operations within the Region, as requested.
Action: Data were analysed from the GOARN Knowledge Platform about deployments to and within the Region for responses to the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 5 May 2023. Data were available about deployment duration, technical role requested, country or area, partner organization and deployed expert’s demographics. Feedback from postdeployment briefings with the experts was collected and thematically analysed to determine ongoing needs and gaps to help improve deployment operations.
Outcome: There were 72 experts deployed on 89 missions through GOARN to 12 countries and areas in the Region, for a total of 4558 field days, to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Discussion: The volume of requests for assistance from countries and areas in the Region to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic uncovered a deficit in human resources available for domestic response to outbreaks and the reliance on international assistance. Strengthening the in-country capacity of ready-to-respond public health emergency staff is critical to meet the needs for outbreak response. The ongoing demand for technical experts to support national responses means that these lessons may have immediate implications.