Sudden onset disasters occur without any advanced notice or warning and often cause extensive injuries to affected people and damage to the healthcare systems – making health facilities partially or completely damaged in crisis situations that may go beyond national capacities to respond.
The South-East Asia region is vulnerable to different types of disasters and emergencies. Countries in this region face a broad range of disasters from natural hazards including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, landslides and volcanic eruptions that may require immediate assistance from national Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) within the affected country or by international EMTs. Examples in the South-East Asia Region are Gujarat, India earthquake (2001), Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004), Kashmir earthquake, India (2005), Yogyakarta earthquake, Indonesia (2006), Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar (2008), Nepal earthquake (2015), Chennai flood (2015) and Aceh earthquake, Indonesia (2016).
In an emergency, the outcome of response depends on how quickly the right expertise reaches at right place at the right time to meet the needs of affected people. To prevent, detect and respond to emergencies, the WHO Health Emergencies (WHE) Programme focuses on building country capacity in collaboration with national, regional and global partners. Strengthening of Emergency Risk Management is one of the priority areas for the region and this can be achieved by improving the coordination mechanism for emergency response through effective partnerships.
During the emergency phase, the presence of multiple humanitarian stakeholders working with or without any partnership arrangements can make the emergency response less effective and inefficient with duplication of response activities and wasting of resources that are already scarce. On top of that, weak coordination and communication mechanisms affect the quality and timely delivery of much needed emergency relief and services. In order to have a timely, well-coordinated, effective and efficient emergency response, the Emergency Operations (EMO) unit of WHO at the Regional Office based in New Delhi, India collaborates with various partners.
Various partnerships have their own mechanisms of networking and coordination within their own areas of specialty or interest. The operational partners and existing key partnership platforms are broadly categorized in the following networks:
Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs)
An Emergency Medical Team is a group of health professionals (e.g., doctors, nurses, paramedics) providing direct clinical care to populations affected by disasters and health emergencies. This includes governmental (both civilian and military) and non-governmental teams and can include both national and international teams. The scope of EMTs range from management of trauma due to sudden onset disasters (mass casualty management) to acute medical emergency care especially in highly infectious outbreaks (e.g. Ebola).
The WHO EMT initiative aims to support Member States, NGOs and international organizations by identifying minimum standards, best practice, logistics and operational field coordination SOPs. The EMTs are an important part of the global health workforce and the EMT initiative places a strong focus on helping every country in developing its own EMT that can arrive where they are needed in the shortest possible time. EMTs are expected to comply with globally agreed standards and coordination mechanism in humanitarian response.
WHO SEARO is organizing this important regional consultation on EMTs to map the existing capacities, to understand the strengths and challenges and to develop a roadmap for strengthening of EMTs in the Region. It is important to adopt standards, implement quality assurance and governance mechanisms for strengthening of national and international EMTs that may work in the South East Asia region.
Objectives of Regional Consultation on Strengthening of EMTs
- To discuss and review global and regional developments in the area of EMT,
- To map EMTs in the South-East Asia region,
- To develop EMT strengthening plan,
- To adopt regional EMT governance mechanism and EMT coordination arrangements and
- To draft a discussion paper on EMTs for the Regional Committee
This consultation is also in preparation for the meeting of the Regional Committee of WHO/SEARO in September 2018 wherein strengthening of EMTs will be discussed as an agenda item.
More than 50 participants are expected from the following groups:
- Representatives from Ministry of Health (involved in policy and operational aspects of EMTs) from 11 Member States of the SEA Region
- Non-governmental organizations and other agencies running EMTs in the SEA Region
- Operational partners and UN agencies involved in emergencies and EMTs
- EMT focal persons WHO Country Offices, Regional Offices and HQ
- Comprehensive mapping of the EMTs in the South-East Asia region
- Draft plan for strengthening governance and coordination mechanisms for EMTs in the region
- Building of operational partnerships for an effective emergency response through coordinated network of EMTs
- Discussion paper on EMTs for the upcoming Regional Committee meeting in September 2018