The wars in the Middle East have led to unprecedented threats and attacks on patients, healthcare workers, and purposeful targeting of hospitals and medical facilities. It is crucial that every healthcare provider, both civilian and military, on either side of the conflict become aware of the unique and inherent protections afforded to them under International Humanitarian Law. However, these protections come with obligations. Whereas Governments must guarantee these protections, when violated, medical providers have equal duty and obligations under the Law to ensure that they will neither commit nor assist in these violations nor take part in any act of hostility. Healthcare providers must not allow any inhuman or degrading treatment of which they are aware and must report such actions to the appropriate authorities. Failure to do so leads to risks of moral, ethical and legal consequences as well as penalties for their actions and inactions. There must be immediate recognition by all parties of the neutrality of health care workers and their rights and responsibilities to care for any sick and injured patient, regardless of their nationality, race, religion, or political point of view.
An increasing number of international emergency medical teams are deployed to assist disaster-affected populations worldwide. Since Haiti earthquake those teams have been criticised for ill adapted care, lack of preparedness in addition to not coordinating with the affected country healthcare system. The Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) initiative, as part of the Word Health Organization’s Global Health Emergency Workforce program, aims to address these shortcomings by improved EMT coordination, and mechanisms to ensure quality and accountability of national and international EMTs. An essential component to reach this goal is appropriate education and training. Multiple disaster education and training programs are available. However, most are centred on individuals’ professional development rather than on the EMTs operational performance. Moreover, no common overarching or standardised training frameworks exist. In this report, an expert panel review and discuss the current approaches to disaster education and training and propose a three-step operational learning framework that could be used for EMTs globally. The proposed framework includes the following steps: 1) ensure professional competence and license to practice, 2) support adaptation of technical and non-technical professional capacities into the low-resource and emergency context and 3) prepare for an effective team performance in the field. A combination of training methodologies is also recommended, including individual theory based education, immersive simulations and team training. Agreed curriculum and open access training materials for EMTs need to be further developed, ideally through collaborative efforts between WHO, operational EMT organizations, universities, professional bodies and training agencies. Keywords: disasters; education; emergencies; global health; learning