The Role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the International Framework of Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Response

Zhanat Carr, MD. PhD
Radiation and Health Program, Department of Public Health and Environment
World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters
Geneva, Switzerland


Following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) was severely damaged resulting in a major environmental disaster and a release of radioactive isotopes into atmosphere. As a result of damage to the nuclear reactors, the risk of direct human exposure to radiation and efforts to bring the involved installations under control have received priority attention. Since then, World Health Organization Headquarters, its Western-Pacific Regional Office, as well as WHO centre in Kobe, Japan, have been involved in the response to the event. The International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005 ) provided the legal framework for the member state to notify WHO according to the criteria for a public health event of international concern. The public health risk for populations in and outside of Japan has been closely monitored. In addition, the information needs of WHO member states, mass media, and general public have been continuously monitored and addressed. The existing arrangements for globally coordinated response and provision of assistance have proved efficient, as described at the JPlan (2010 ). International organizations demonstrated a strong commitment to mobilizing their knowledge and expertise in support of the Japanese government's efforts to address health, food, drinking water, environment, trade, travel, and nuclear safety issues stemming from the events of 11 March. The report describes the scope of WHO involvement to Fukushima nuclear emergency response.

1 International Health Regulations, 2005 (2008), URL:
2 Joint Plan of International Organizations for Response to Nuclear Emergencies (2010), URL: