A Year of Emergencies

As the only British NGO to be verified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an Emergency Medical Team, UK-Med is first and foremost a fast-responding organisation built on rapid deployments.

2023 has been a year of continued emergency responses, with UK-Med’s Emergency Medical Team saving lives and supporting local health care in numerous countries racked by conflict and disaster. In 2022/23, we’ve treated more than 35,000 patients and trained another 11,000 people in medical and humanitarian work. This year alone, we have responded to emergencies across Eastern Europe, Southeast Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia.

As we reach the end of 2023, here is an overview of some of our responses highlighting the global impact of our work.

War in Ukraine

In Ukraine, our country programme continues to reach thousands of people in need. We’ve been operating in Ukraine since March 2022, providing surgical support, mobile health clinics, medical supplies, and training for national Ukrainian health workers. As the war approaches its second year, our teams in Ukraine continue to work in challenging conditions, particularly in the harsh winter months, but their commitment to providing health care is unbowed.

Emergency medicine Ukraine
Our work in Ukraine has included the deployment of specialist surgeons to treat those injured in the conflict.

Since January 2023, our Ukraine team has treated more than 11,000 patients using mobile health clinics; small but well-equipped facilities intended for primary health care that can quickly reach frontline areas. We have also trained 3,500 first responders and civilians in emergency medical care, provided nearly 5,000 mental health consultations under our Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programme (MHPSS), and treated more than 300 patients through life and limb-saving surgical interventions.

Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

The earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria in February brought unparalleled destruction in a matter of minutes. 60,000 lives were lost and 120,000 were left injured.

We immediately sent an assessment team to Turkey, quickly followed by our Type 1 field hospital with enough personnel and supplies for a full emergency health care response. Only eight days after the quake, we began receiving our first patients close to the epicentre of Türkoğlu. We also deployed mobile clinics, providing services for more remote communities that were unable to access the field hospital.

By late April, as health needs stabilised, we handed over surplus pharmaceutical, medical consumables, and other supplies to local health facilities, whilst the field hospital was donated to the Ministry of Health. Since the team first arrived in February, we’d treated more than 7,000 patients. Our response formally came to an end with the delivery of medical equipment worth more than £100,000, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), to Türkoğlu hospital in September.

Cholera and a Cyclone in Malawi

In January, a cholera outbreak in Malawi spread with alarming speed. More than a thousand deaths had been reported by February.

UK-Med staff were deployed to support Malawi’s local health system, provide early detection and identification of cholera cases and deliver care to patients with the disease. We strengthened the skills of local staff and health facilities to better manage and respond to the outbreak by providing training and mentoring in case management, water and sanitation practices, and infection prevention. We also provided local health teams with specialist cholera kits and essential supplies, to ensure they were well equipped to tackle the emergency.   

Emergency Medicine Malawi
In Malawi, UK-Med staff worked alongside national health workers in Lilongwe.

While the team was working to tackle cholera, Cyclone Freddy – the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record – caused devastation across Southeast Africa, particularly in Malawi, claiming hundreds of lives. The team rapidly expanded their operations to create mobile clinics that were sent to the camps created for internally displaced people (IDPs). As the only Emergency Medical Team in the area at the time, UK-Med staff had to quickly adapt to the sudden surge quickly and efficiently in medical needs in the country. The mobile clinics served more than 7,000 patients – of which about one in six were below the age of five.

Surgical Support in Somalia

On October 29th, 2022, Somalia experienced twin explosions near the Ministry of Education Mogadishu, leaving local hospitals struggling to cope with high numbers of casualties. Following the incident, the Somalia Ministry of Health and World Health Organization identified key needs in terms of training and support and in early 2023, UK-Med deployed a team of nine clinicians to work in the trauma units at Madina Hospital.

Emergency Medicine Somalia
The UK-Med team provided support for local health teams in Mogadishu.

Working alongside doctors, nurses and technicians from the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Unit, the team supported surgical procedures and enhanced effective patient management and surgical skills to improve clinical care within the trauma departments.

Flooding in Libya

On 10 September, Storm Daniel made landfall in Libya. Seven-metre-high waves came crashing into the city as the torrent of water swept entire neighbourhoods into the Mediterranean. Estimates range from 4,000 to more than 11,000 deaths.

Our staff arrived in Libya on 27 September and began providing care in Derna, through mobile and direct support to primary health clinics. Our multi-national team comprised of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and support staff.

Emergency Medicine Libya
Our team provided medical care for communities in clinics across Derna.

We quickly scaled up our response, supporting a maternity unit, providing essential medicines and supplies, and delivering training on a range of topics requested by Libyan colleagues. Working alongside Libyan health workers, local authorities, other international organisations and EMT partners, our team sought to ease the burden on Derna’s already fragile health system and providing much needed respite for local healthcare staff.

Rehabilitation in Armenia

In Nagorno-Karabakh, an explosion at a fuel depot on 25 September killed over 200 people and left nearly 200 more with severe burns. The explosion came as thousands of refugees were attempting to flee into Armenia to escape the surge in violence and instability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

UK-Med staff from our surgical and rehabilitation team were quickly despatched to Armenia, arriving at Yerevan hospital in early October where many of the survivors had been admitted. Coordinating with the World Health Organization, the Armenian Ministry of Health, other Emergency Medical Teams, and local partners, our team provided surgical and rehabilitation treatment for those injured in the blast.

Photo: WHO/Nare Shahinyan

Before leaving Armenia, UK-Med specialists also delivered a training course focused on burns rehabilitation, jointly with WHO Armenia and Samaritan’s Purse EMT, for participants from nine medical and rehabilitation centres across Armenia.