HONG KONG —We’re in Hong Kong this week, attending the World Health Organization’s annual Emergency Medical Team global meeting, an invitation-only gathering of 300 top emergency medical teams from 65 countries across the world. This select group includes top health and disaster relief officials from a range of health ministries, the United Nations and many of the world’s international health NGOS —  and we are very honored again this year to have been invited and included.

I’m here with NYC Medics’ operations chief Phil Suarez and our medical director Tim Tan, and these past three days, we’ve been participating in quite a number of rich and lively discussions about topics vital to our sector. According to the WHO, humanitarian crises are bigger than they have been in a very long time and more of them are now happening simultaneously around the world. Over the past decade, humanitarian needs have more than doubled globally, so it’s great to be brainstorming and networking with our sector colleagues. We’re sharing lessons learned from recent deployments in the field and there’s been a lot of meeting-wide discussion about the WHO’s new sector-wide initiative to ensure quality care as the need grows for Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) across the world.

That initiative is the WHO’s new EMT Global Registry, a verification system where EMTs can sign up to go through a voluntary peer review process to ensure they meet rigorous and specific requirements for care and operation during sudden disasters. WHO will be taking sector-wide data from the field as part of today’s new trend to use data to help drive change and improve impact. In this way, WHO is changing how they work with EMTs, and NYC Medics is in one of first waves of 75 global EMT teams from around the world that have signed up for verification by WHO this coming spring.

“The global classification of EMTs is life-saving capacity-building at its best,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan told us and all others assembled this week. According to a transcript of her opening remarks to attendees, this new EMT Registry “will ensure that international preparedness to provide clinical care during global emergencies is structured, standardized and aligned with a set of overarching principles.”

We’re very excited, because we know that NYC Medics already is ahead of the game in many of the ways the Registry is seeking. For example, we already classify our teams in advance to make rapid and close matches between real needs and specialized skills; we’ve always been self-sufficient on the ground because we bring our own food, water, and supplies; we have consistently ranked highly for our ability to coordinate and speed mobilization, and we have always worked very well with local populations. One of our core values —from our first mission to Pakistan 10 years ago—was to work closely and side-by-side with local communities to gain deep understandings of local culture, context, and language. And we are expanding our work in the coming year to do more longer-term deployments post-disasters to give local healthcare workers additional time to regain their footing, food and shelter after a disaster, and then work with them in the field before they are ready to take over fully for us during those first critical days and weeks following a crisis.

As Margaret Chan said this week, “classification by WHO, along with peer reviews, is a mark of vetting and quality assurance that builds donor confidence and opens the door for invitations to respond. Populations, too, are reassured to know that qualified and equipped teams stand ready to step in quickly when disaster strikes.”

For our donor and volunteers, it will lend you surety that NYC Medics is a WHO-accredited medical organization, knowing that your donation or your time is being put to the most effective use and making the most impact.

Watch this space for updates on our WHO review process. We will be hosting two verification site visits for WHO representatives—one here at our New York headquarters, and the other while responding in the field. Once this process is completed, we’ll be hosting a mini-Town Hall meeting for our donors, volunteers, and other supporters to review with you our report card.

We’re proud of our teams and our volunteers, and we’re looking forward to sharing the results with you this spring!

 Kathy Bequary