Humanitarian Health Action

Deploying quality-assured medical teams when disaster strikes


February 2017 -- Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) are groups of health professionals (such as doctors, nurses, paramedics) who treat patients affected by an emergency or disaster. They come from governments, charities, non-governmental organizations, militaries and international organizations such as the International Red Cross/Red Crescent movement. The World Health Organization’s EMT initiative aims to ensure that emergency medical teams deploying to disasters have received sufficient training and come armed with the necessary equipment and supplies to respond to emergencies without imposing a burden on the local system. The Australian government has been a big supporter of the EMT initiative from the very beginning, providing both self-sufficient medical teams and funding. They also seconded key personnel to set up the EMT Initiative at WHO.

Responding to forgotten crises - Together with the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund

A displaced child in Bangui, Central African Republic – a forgotten crisis where many people lack access to health care.
WHO/C. Black

January 2017 -- With the number and scale of humanitarian crises around the world, some countries have fallen off the global radar. That is the case for countries like the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan, where pressing needs don’t seem to garner the world’s attention. This can make it difficult to raise the funding necessary to carry out humanitarian response plans. In many of these forgotten crises, WHO depends heavily on the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – including in the Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Viet Nam, where the Fund is the sole source of financing for the entire humanitarian health sector. WHO has received a total of more than US $44 million from CERF for emergency response operations in 35 countries in 2016, and is the fourth-largest recipient of CERF funding. Each year on average, CERF funds enable critical health interventions for 20 million people.

Aid workers share experiences of evacuations from eastern Aleppo, Syria

At one of the mobile medical clinics, a doctor examined a patient from eastern Aleppo.
Turkey Health Cluster

Intensified fighting in eastern Aleppo starting in July 2016 resulted in thousands of people injured and killed, and has deprived the civilian population of essential services, including health care. In September 2016, the humanitarian community began negotiations with parties to the conflict to obtain approval for a medical evacuation and assistance plan that would allow the delivery of medicines into the city and the evacuation of civilians.

WHO developed a full package of operational documents for medical evacuation, including the detailed concept of operations and agreements with local NGO partners. Essential medical supplies, including life-saving medicines, were pre-positioned in health facilities on possible routes of evacuation. Stand-by agreements for ambulance transportation were finalized with local NGO partners to enable medical evacuation.

Handling dead bodies with dignity when disaster strikes

When a large-scale disaster strikes, the first people on the scene are usually local residents and organizations. Most of them are not trained to handle dead bodies, but there is a lot that they can do to give the best possible chance to investigators to identify the remains of those killed and clarify the fate of missing people.

Partnership news

The global humanitarian community is dealing with emergencies of unprecedented scale. 130 million people need humanitarian assistance worldwide. No organization can do it alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) operates in more than 40 countries dealing with humanitarian health emergencies of all kinds ranging from disease outbreaks to conflicts to natural disasters. In all instances, WHO relies on partners through networks, such as the Global Health Cluster, Standby Partners, Emergency Medical Teams and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.

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