The Faculty of Remote, Rural and Humanitarian Healthcare (FRRHH) spoke to humanitarian healthcare experts to find out the best way to support during a humanitarian crisis. Ask yourself these key questions before acting.
As the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries, individuals and organisations may be considering ways of supporting those affected. Like others across the world, we are dismayed by ongoing events, and we want to offer what advice and guidance we can at this time, 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 particularly the current UK-Med Ukraine Appeal.
Some healthcare workers may be considering the possibility of travelling to the region to volunteer and provide medical aid to those in need.
This is an admirable aim, and there is a grave need for assistance on the ground. However, it is essential that those who do travel to the region are fully trained and that they only deploy with an experienced medical aid organisation, such as UK-Med.
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 the type of environment that currently exists in Ukraine. 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 has 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.
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.
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, such as currently exists in Ukraine:
If donating equipment, please only send if:
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.