by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 24, 2016
Three Russian and Chinese emergency medical teams have become the first certified by the World Health Organization to respond to disasters and disease outbreaks globally, the UN health agency said Tuesday.
The two teams from Russia and one from China "completed WHO's rigorous classification process," the agency said in a statement.
"This means that, when a disaster strikes and an affected country requests help, we can quickly deploy medical teams that we know meet our high standards," WHO chief Margaret Chan said in the statement.
The certification programme was launched last year in a bid to ensure that medical teams sent abroad to respond to an emergency have well-trained staff and bring along the proper medicine and equipment to respond to the situation.
There are currently 67 medical teams from 25 countries working to receive the coveted stamp of approval, and WHO expects that number to rise to as many as 200 teams within the next couple of years, representing more than 100,000 health workers, Ian Norton, who leads the work on foreign medical teams at WHO, told reporters.
The certification programme came in response to the humanitarian and medical aid debacle in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince six years ago, killing more than 200,000 people.
"We saw hundreds of teams descend on Haiti with the very best intentions to treat those affected by the earthquake," Ian Norton, who leads the work on foreign medical teams at WHO, told reporters.
"Unfortunately in healthcare, good intentions aren't enough," he said, pointing out that "some arrived without the right training, some arrived without the right equipment and supplies and became almost more of a burden than a help."
Since then, the global medical community has taken great strides to better coordinate responses to disasters and outbreaks, Norton said.
He stressed that it is always better for countries to ensure and coordinate their own emergency response.
But in cases where they need outside help, the foreign medical teams must be sufficiently trained and bring with them the appropriate medication, which must meet international standards.
The new WHO-certified teams will only be deployed if a government requests their assistance.
Providing teams with WHO certificates will help ensure that "disaster-affected governments and their populations (receive) predictable and timely responses by well-trained medical personnel and self-sufficient teams," WHO said.
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