As of today, Spain has a Level II Emergency Medical Team (EMT II) with the backing of the World Health Organization (WHO) And the European Commission, ready to assist the most vulnerable populations suffering humanitarian crises around the world.
This was announced today in Madrid by the WHO Expert Committee and by the European Commission, which have verified the Spanish Technical Aid Response Team (START), thus authorising it to participate in international humanitarian emergency operations.
Known as the "Red Vests", from the official uniform of Spanish Cooperation Agency staff on the ground, START comprises a field hospital with surgical capacity, more than 40 professionals from Spain's public health system, and a dozen logisticians. The team, together with all the supplies necessary to provide services for 14 days, can be deployed in less than 72 hours to anywhere in the world that a humanitarian crisis might occur.
The START project is part of the EMT initiative led by WHO, which aims to standardise the response to natural disasters, providing international medical teams able to ensure an optimal level of quality care for the populations affected.
Spain's START comprises a total of 65 people (including medical, logistical, and coordination staff) who will be able to treat 150 to 200 patients per day during a maximum of 15 days. Its field hospital has the capacity to hospitalise 20 patients, and includes an operating room and all of the material and resources necessary—including instruments, medication, and water and sanitation facilities—to be self-sufficient.
As regards funding, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) has spent 1.3 million euros to launch the START project. The European Commission has contributed 500,000 euros to Spain's EMT, and for each START deployment on the ground, the Commission will assume 85% of transport expenses.
In addition, the health services of the 17 Spanish regional administrations, as well as the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, will provide the salaries of the public health workers involved in START while they are deployed on the ground.
Participants in the verification exercise, held at the National Civil Protection School in Madrid, included Fernando García Casas, Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Ibero-America and the Caribbean (SECIPIC); Luis Tejada Chacón, Managing Director of AECID; Ian Norton, head of the WHO's EMT program, and Ilvi Luuk, representative of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).