WHO supports Bangladesh in strengthening emergency response capacities

WHO conducted training workshops in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet, Bangladesh, for strengthening capacities in dealing with large scale emergencies that might require international Emergency Medical Team (EMT) response. These were held in March 2019.

Presentation on EMT at Dhaka

The WHO EMT initiative assists organizations and countries to build capacity and strengthen health systems by coordinating the deployment of quality assured medical teams in emergencies. When a disaster strikes or an outbreak flares, the more rapid the response, the better the outcome. That is why the EMT initiative places a strong focus on helping every country develop its own teams, who can arrive where they are needed in the shortest time.

Also, in emergency response operations, it is extremely important that EMTs coordinate and integrate with local health partners, effectively supporting their efforts. “The purpose of these workshops is to introduce the key concepts, methodology and global standards of the Emergency Medical Teams to the health sector in Bangladesh. We are working together with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to build sustainable capacities in the Health Emergency Operations Centre that will be able to coordinate the response of EMTs in any type of emergency,” said Dr Hammam El Saka, Team Leader, WHO Health Emergencies Programme in Bangladesh.

Group Work at Chattogram

One-hundred thirty-five doctors participated in the workshops. These were representatives from various tiers of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare including Directorate General of Health Services, Civil Surgeon Offices and Health Emergency Operations Centre. Workshops were also attended by representatives from Medical College Hospitals, Army Medical Corps, UN agencies, local and international NGOs.

“These workshops are part of the implementation of a WHO’s Regional Committee for South-East Asia resolution on strengthening Emergency Medical Teams in the region. The novelty of the workshops in Bangladesh is that we are also going at subnational level, in districts considered as priority areas, aiming to strengthen the capacity to coordinate EMTs in a response to large scale emergency,” Dr. Kai von Harbou, Health Emergency Officer, SEARO-WHO explained.

Closing ceremony at Dhaka

The training workshops have been funded by a contribution from the British High Commission in Dhaka. “It is important that we have one international system which is understood by everybody. Therefore, when there are major disasters, in Bangladesh or in the region, there are teams available and they can intervene and support the local authorities. The British High Commission is keen to help develop the capacity within the countries and region to have EMTs prepared at international standards that can be deployed when it’s needed and that will efficiently interact with local health sector,” said Captain Daniel Follington, Royal Navy, UK.

The WHO launched the Global EMT initiative in 2013 to develop an EMT classification system, along with minimum quality standards and principles. The initiative is now supporting predictable and timely response by self-sufficient and well trained health personnel to the people affected by disasters, outbreaks and emergencies. They are most effective as national and regional teams by understanding the culture, medical systems and needs of the local population. A global directory of all classified EMTs is maintained by the WHO EMT secretariat, to help speed up the mobilization and coordination of teams in the event of an emergency.