Humanitarian Health Action

Foreign Medical Team Working Group

Improving the quality of surgical trauma care after sudden onset disasters

Following Sudden Onset disasters (SOD) a large number of Foreign Medical Teams (FMTs) often arrive in-country to provide emergency care to patients with traumatic injuries and other life-threatening conditions. Experience has shown that in many cases the deployment of FMTs is not based on assessed needs and that there is wide variation in their capacities, competencies and adherence to professional ethics. Such teams are often unfamiliar with the national or international emergency response systems and standards, and may not integrate smoothly into the usual coordination mechanisms. These problems were especially evident following the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods of 2010.

Recognition of these issues gave recently rise to discussions among relief experts about the need to ensure quality of services provided by international surgical trauma teams. Since 2011, the Global Health Cluster’s FMT Working Group worked on guidance and procedures to have more predictability in FMT response capacity, and to have minimal quality assurance systems in place that would allow receiving countries to identify teams that are able to meet and adhere to minimal standards. A first edition of a classification system and minimum standards for FMTs that provide trauma and surgical care in the first month following a SOD is now available. Furthermore, a first outline is proposed for the procedures for registering and monitoring of FMTs arriving in the immediate aftermath of a SOD.

The proposed next steps for this initiative include:

  • To finalise and secure support from main stakeholders for the classification, standards, and criteria for deployment of FMTs.
  • To develop and manage a global and regional registry of potential providers of FMTs.
  • To seek endorsement on the procedures for registering FMTs on arrival, and strengthen the capacity of potential host countries to welcome arriving FMTs and integrate their capacities within the broader health sector disaster coordination.
  • To provide on-site support to the host country for the coordination of FMTs arriving in the aftermath of a SOD, and foster regional collaboration.

WHO, together with the partners of the GHC and FMT WG, plan to assist governments and key stakeholders to put this work into practice. We welcome feedback on this work so we can improve on this edition. Please contact for feedback and/or further questions, stating FMT in the subject heading.

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