How to support a Humanitarian Healthcare Crisis
In collaboration with humanitarian healthcare experts, The Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare (FRRHH) advise on a number of ways you can support during a humanitarian crisis.
As humanitarian crisis' continue to unfold all over the world, individuals and organisations may be considering ways of supporting those affected. Like others across the world, we are dismayed as such events come to light, and aim to offer advice and guidance, in line with our role to define standards in remote, rural and humanitarian healthcare. We have developed the brief guidance below, in consultation with one of our key partners, UK-Med. This helps guide our own response and we hope it will be useful to the wider healthcare community and organisations as well as the general public. The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and its Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare support the work of UK-Med and their ongoing commitment to supporting those in crisis.
General guidance for the healthcare community
Some healthcare workers may be considering the possibility of travelling to regions affected by conflict or disaster to volunteer and provide medical aid to those in need. This is an admirable aim, and there is usually a grave need for assistance on the ground. However, it is essential that those who do travel are fully trained and that they only deploy with an experienced medical aid organisation, such as UK-Med, MSF, Red Cross, ICRC and Save the Children.
Whilst healthcare workers may be experts in their field and in their home nation, and have the best of intentions, they may lack the specific skills, experience, training, and support required to safely deploy in a humanitarian context. By deploying without adequate preparation, training or support from a recognised aid organisation, healthcare workers may take up very limited travel or accommodation spaces which could otherwise have been used by a trained and experienced professional deploying as part of a formal effort.
A great deal of research and development been carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to establish safe and effective standards for the delivery of humanitarian healthcare. These standards are presented in what are commonly known as the “Red Book” and the “Blue Book”. It is vital that these recognised standards are upheld, to ensure a coordinated, effective and safe response that is most likely to meet the needs of those receiving aid. Links to both these key resources are provided below.
General guidance for organisations and the public
The most impactful contribution that non-aid organisations and members of the public can make is to donate money to an experienced and recognised organisation that has an established track record of delivering an effective humanitarian response. Such organisations usually do so by working directly and in partnership with those receiving the aid. Financial contributions directly support this delivery.
This is the recommended approach of experts in humanitarian aid and relief, the very people who deliver interventions on the ground and across the world to ease the suffering of people and communities affected by humanitarian disasters. Anyone considering donating should be reassured that this approach helps to ensure a coordinated response. It also ensures that the right aid and supplies reach the right people and communities.
SPECIFIC POINTS TO CONSIDER
If you wish to help by donating money, please ensure that your contribution goes to an experienced organisation that is already involved in any response efforts. The Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare recommends the following organisations as ones that possess the necessary capacity, skills, knowledge and experience to deliver safe medical care during a humanitarian crisis:
- Red Cross
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- Médecins Sans Frontiéres
- Save the Children
If donating equipment, please only send if:
- You have a requesting or receiving organisation that has made a specific ask for equipment and that you can send them exactly what has been asked for;
- You can guarantee that what you send is in perfect working order;
- You can ensure that the receiving organisation will know how to use it. Do not assume and send clear instructions;
- You can ensure that you, as the sender, can cover all the costs involved. There should be no cost or administration burden to the receiving party in receiving the equipment or ensuring its release; and
- Any required import/export licenses have been secured (without cost or burden to the receiving party).
Further information on donating medical equipment:
Scottish Government Donating Medical Equipment: Report
10 Steps to Safe Medical Equipment Donations
Volunteers – Deployment
If you intend to deploy as a volunteer, please only do so if you are deploying with an experienced humanitarian organisation (e.g., UK-Med, ICRC, MSF, Save the Children). These organisations have trained and experienced individuals who are part of well-maintained registers and, in the event of a humanitarian crisis, are called upon to deploy with considerable preparation, training and support. You are required as a minimum to have two years’ post training experience and be on the register of an experienced aid organisation. You can find out more on the requirements and steps required to join a register by visiting the UK-Med Register information page.
Before thinking about a deployment, consider whether:
- a) you have the right skills and experience required to deliver safe medical care and;
- b) if you are suitably prepared and able to adapt your existing skills and training to an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous setting safely.
You will need the right skills, training, experience to deploy to a humanitarian setting and contribute safe medical care.
Also consider whether you are authorised to practice medicine or deliver healthcare in the area to which you are deploying. Do you have sufficient indemnity cover and other insurances? Individuals who deploy as part of an organised aid effort with an established organisation will have these arrangements in place.
KEY READING AND FURTHER RESOURCES
- World Health Organization (2021). Classification and Minimum Standards for Foreign Medical Teams in Sudden Onset Disasters. Available at: https://extranet.who.int/emt/guidelines-and-publications#dflip-df_manual1/1/
- World Health Organization (2021). A Guidance Document for Medical Teams Responding to Emergencies in Armed Conflicts and Other Insecure Environments. Available at: https://extranet.who.int/emt/guidelines-and-publications#dflip-df_manual3/1/
- International Committee of the Red Cross (2012). Respecting and Protecting health care in Armed Conflicts and in Situations not Covered by International Humanitarian Law. Available at: https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/2012/health-care-law-factsheet-icrc-eng.pdf
- If you wish to further your understanding of the humanitarian healthcare response then please consider taking our online course, the Introduction to Humanitarian Healthcare. This course will teach you the key guiding principles of humanitarian aid and guide your decision to make the commitment required to support a humanitarian healthcare deployment. https://www.rcsed.ac.uk/faculties/faculty-of-remote-rural-and-humanitarian-healthcare/introduction-to-humanitarian-healthcare-online-course
- You can also access two free webinars below for more information on what is required and what it is like to deploy with a humanitarian healthcare aid organisation safely.
Approaches to Training for Humanitarian Deployment
Humanitarian Healthcare - What I Wish I Had Known
About the Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare (FRRHH)
- The FRRHH was created in 2020, after RCSEd expanded its existing Faculty of Remote and Rural Healthcare to include those working in humanitarian healthcare.
- The FRRHH is a global network for clinical and non-clinical professionals working in environments where skills and experience beyond urban healthcare systems are required.
- Created in collaboration with frontline medical aid charity UK-Med, two world-leading humanitarian experts were appointed to the Faculty’s Executive Committee to help shape its strategic focus and drive forward its efforts to support healthcare professionals in the sector.
- UK-Med is a Manchester-based charity with thirty years’ experience responding to health emergencies around the world.
- UK-Med is a partner in the UK Emergency Medical Team - the front line of the UK government’s response to a humanitarian crisis overseas - funded by UK aid from the Department for International Development.
- UK-Med prepares teams of clinicians who are ready to respond to disasters anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours
- Follow UK-Med on Twitter.