Responding to Environmental Emergencies
1Emergency Medicine, McGill University, Canada
Wilderness and Environmental Medicine includes a broad list of categories and topics. One important subsection is Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance. Practitioners must be properly trained and prepared to work in disaster areas and humanitarian crises. This lecture will provide insights on preparation, touching on personal security and safety measures, pre-departure training and considerations in the returning traveler who has worked in high risk zones.
In 2018, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs was only able to meet 60% of the required US $25.2 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to over 97.9 million people despite 135.3 million people in need. Crises are becoming more protracted and forced displacement levels are unprecedented reaching a record 68.5 million. The number, frequency, and severity of humanitarian crises are only predicted to rise due to an increasing number of fragile states affected by conflict, urbanization, and climate-related events. Experts predict that climate-related disasters alone will affect 375 million people annually. Furthermore, more than 50% of the world’s population will be living in urban settings by 2030 – most of these in slums that present an increase in vulnerability to disaster.
Currently, the number of full-time humanitarian workers responding to the global need is estimated at 450,000 however the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has more than 17 million volunteers worldwide. Many of those who work in disaster settings are untrained and ill equipped to provide an effective and efficient response. There is an urgent need to expand the humanitarian workforce with competent leaders who have the proper training to provide them with the right tools, knowledge, skills, and behaviours.