Koudougou, 15 February 2019 – In emergency situations, such as outbreaks, disasters and mass casualty events, “good intentions” are not enough. Well-prepared teams are imperative to withstand the impact of any emergency, let alone the increasing frequency of them.
In Burkina Faso, for instance, infectious disease outbreaks occur regularly – as of 30 January 2019, an outbreak of meningitis has resulted in 26 deaths in Tapoa Province. Mass casualty events are also increasing in frequency due to security reasons. The most recent attack, in Yirgou village on 1 January 2019, resulted in 49 deaths, 89 injured people and 6 000 displaced people.
The Government of Burkina Faso is determined to rise to the need and bolster its ability to respond appropriately to whatever emergency breaks out, while maintaining quality general services.
The Ministry of Health, through the Centre of Health Emergency Response Operations (CORUS) and with the support of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), brought more than 30 people from different regions of the country together to improve coordination and response as part of their preparedness for emergencies.
The three-day national workshop in Koudougou concentrated on augmenting and thus strengthening the clinical care capabilities for an effective response to health emergencies.
The WHO Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) Initiative and the WAHO work jointly with governments, medical teams and all partners to improve the quality of care provided to patients in times of emergency.
Emergency medical teams are basically groups of health professionals (doctors, nurses, paramedics, etc.) that treat patients affected by an emergency with health consequences. The team members come from governments, nongovernment organizations, the military and regional and international organizations.
The aim of the EMT Initiative is to strengthen coordination and focus on minimum standards set by WHO and its partners for quality care to achieve better outcomes for patients and communities in times of emergency. Capacity-building of national teams is at the core of the EMT Initiative. Self-sufficient and quality-assured international emergency medical teams are also crucial in the event that national systems are overwhelmed during an emergency.
At the same time, efforts to strengthen emergency preparedness continue through development and strengthening of standard operating procedures and simulation exercises.
The next steps are to meet with relevant authorities and other critical stakeholders to establish a working group to advance the EMT Initiative and to further develop the draft plan of action.
The workshop is part of a series of activities across the WHO African Region. Following a regional launch of the EMT Initiative in 2017, awareness workshops have been conducted in seven countries, with seven more planned for 2019, in addition to a regional workshop on strengthening coordination of emergency medical teams.