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URGENT: Children across the Horn of Africa are dying from hunger.


Emergency health unit

The Emergency Health Unit is transforming the way we deliver frontline emergency healthcare and medical assistance in a crisis setting.

Speed. Expertise. Reach.

Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit delivers rapid, quality public healthcare for children and their families caught up in catastrophic natural disasters, brutal conflicts and fast-spreading disease outbreaks.

The Emergency Health Unit has four rapid response teams containing the ideal combination of health and operational specialists in one team: doctors, nurses, midwives, team leaders, logisticians and water and sanitation experts. They are trained to tackle lethal disease outbreaks, administer life-saving medical care and treat malnourished children.

Our teams are strategically positioned in key areas of the world and are fully equipped with the right tools for the job: mobile clinics; field hospitals, life-saving drugs and high-energy nutrition supplements.

The Emergency Health Unit has three life-saving principles:



We can deploy our teams within 24 hours. Inside 72 hours, they can be on the ground saving lives.

Save the Children knows preparation is one of the best ways to reduce the impact of a crisis on children. The Emergency Health Unit allows us to be agile and one step ahead of a disaster or disease outbreak.



Our teams consist of humanitarian specialists including doctors, nurses, midwives, engineers and logisticians. They are trained to tackle lethal disease outbreaks, administer life-saving medical care and treat malnourished children.



We have teams strategically positioned in emergency hotspots around the world. The teams are fully equipped with the best tools for the job: mobile clinics, life-saving drugs and high-energy nutrition supplements. The Emergency Health Unit goes to the toughest places to ensure no child is left behind.

Responding to complex crises around the world

An eruption of violence in a densely populated city, where battles are fought street-by-street. A deadly outbreak of Ebola in an area where armed groups attack health workers. A super typhoon that demolishes everything in its path. A conflict-fuelled food crisis.

Children around the world are caught up in increasingly complex and severe humanitarian crises. Save the Children has been at the forefront of saving children’s lives for almost 100 years, but we know we need to keep evolving to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Image: Sacha Myers/Save the Children

Our Emergency Health Unit was established to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Save the Children’s humanitarian health response – and to ensure we can provide life-saving healthcare to children in the most difficult and dangerous places. The Emergency Health Unit enables us to respond more quickly as the teams have their own systems and processes that allow them to deploy within 24 hours and start providing healthcare within 72 hours.

Working with others

The Emergency Health Unit is usually deployed for up to three months during the very first phase of an emergency or for a spike in needs during a protracted crisis. Our teams do not replace the broader healthcare systems in a country. They focus on treating children’s immediate life-threatening illnesses and injuries and training local healthcare workers to provide assistance.

After three months, the Emergency Health Unit usually step back and prepare for the next emergency but can extend if needed. They hand over to Save the Children health professionals, the Ministry of Health or trusted partners, ensuring children continue to receive the quality care they need. Throughout the response Save the Children’s staff in child protection, counselling and education will step in, too, when children need them.

Image: Save the Children

The Emergency Health Unit can also deploy to high-risk countries before an emergency happens. For example, our teams can arrive in a country just before a cyclone hits, so they are ready to respond immediately after the cyclone has passed. The Emergency Health Unit also provides Emergency Preparation support to high risk countries to build the capacity of local staff; develop health-specific contingency plans, risk monitoring and early response plans; and conduct mass vaccination campaigns to prevent disease outbreaks.

Case study: Rohingya refugee crisis

A major escalation of violence in Myanmar in 2017 forced more than 655,000 Rohingya people to flee to Bangladesh, sparking a huge humanitarian crisis. The Emergency Health Unit set up nine health primary health clinics and one 24/7 inpatient centre in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Some health centres are in remote areas providing vital access to medical care for the most vulnerable children. So far, the centres have provided health services for more than 200,000 people. 

Image: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

“I thought here would be the best place for both of us,” says Humaira* who gave birth in the inpatient centre. “I came here before when I was pregnant, so I knew there were good doctors to take care of us.” 

The Emergency Health Unit also responded to a diphtheria outbreak and supported with flood and cholera emergency planning. 

Register your interest

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If you're a medic, paramedic, an engineer or a logistician, or you would like to support this work – we want to hear from you.

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*Names changed to protect identity

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