Strengthening SEA Region EMTs for health emergency response
AbstractThe South-East Asia Region is vulnerable to different types of disasters and emergencies. Experiences from health emergencies in the Region have shown that following a sudden-onset disaster, a large number of emergency medical teams (EMTs) or emergency response teams often arrive in the affected country to provide emergency care to patients with traumatic injuries and other life-threatening conditions. In many such situations, it was found that the deployment of these teams was not based on assessed needs and there was wide variation in their capacities, competencies and adherence to professional ethics. There is a lack of quality-assured, internationally classified and/or nationally accredited EMTs in the Region. The purpose of the EMT Initiative of WHO is to improve the timeliness and quality of health services provided by national and international EMTs, and enhance the capacity of national health systems for leading the activation and coordination of the response in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, outbreak and/or other emergency. Considering the Region’s prevailing risks, hazards and vulnerabilities, it is important to strengthen implementation of the EMT Initiative of WHO in the Region. A regional consultation was organized in Bangkok, Thailand, during 28–29 November 2017 to strengthen operational partnerships for an emergency response. It was strongly recommended by the majority of delegates from operational partners that EMTs in the Region need to be standardized, strengthened and well-coordinated under the regional coordination mechanisms. It was also recommended to endorse “strengthening of EMTs in the Region” as an Agenda item at the Seventy-first Session of the Regional Committee in September 2018. A regional consultation for strengthening of EMTs was organized by the Health Emergencies Programme (WHE) of the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEA) in New Delhi on 5–6 June 2018. It was attended by more than 60 participants from all 11 Member States of the Region, including representatives from the ministries of health and defence, and civil society partners. The main recommendations from the delegates of this consultation were directed at policy-makers and health administrators in the Region to make them aware of the EMT Initiative of WHO, and strengthen EMT capacity. The attached Working Paper was presented to the High-Level Preparatory (HLP) Meeting for its review and recommendations. The HLP Meeting reviewed the paper and made the following recommendations for consideration by the Seventy-first Session of the Regional Committee: Actions by Member States Establish policies and procedures for strengthening EMTs in the countries of the Region linked to existing systems and IHR (2005) capacities through: – developing national guidelines/policies on EMTs and adopt national minimum standards for EMTs; – designating national focal points for EMTs at the ministries of health; – establishing and training national EMTs; and maintaining a national database on EMTs and sharing this with WHO; and – signing up selected national EMTs for a mentorship and classification process coordinated by WHO. Establish an EMT Coordination Cell through the Ministry of Health’s Health Emergency Operations Centre to allow for the smooth coordination of EMTs, including the arrival and deployment of EMTs Actions by WHO Establish a Regional EMT Working Group to help the implementation of the EMT Initiative with WHO-SEARO serving as Secretariat. Provide technical assistance and support for training, quality assurance, coordination, experience sharing and other activities for strengthening EMTs in Member States of the Region. Identify, promote and facilitate areas of research and innovation to strengthen EMTs (e.g. the medical camp kits that were developed in a local context following the Nepal earthquake of 2015). This Working Paper and the HLP Meeting recommendations are submitted to the Seventy-first Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia for its consideration and decision, and a request to consider a resolution on this Agenda item.
World Health Organization. Regional Office for South-East Asia. (2018). Strengthening SEA Region EMTs for health emergency response. World Health Organization. Regional Office for South-East Asia. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/273959