Thirty years ago an earthquake ripped through Armenia, killing over 45,000 people and injuring a further 500,000. A team of eight Manchester medics, led by UK-Med founder Professor Tony Redmond OBE, decided to act. Tony reflects, “We didn’t have any kit, so we borrowed it. People showed us such good will and trust, they just wanted to help us respond to what was happening. We got the flights donated, and then I was invited onto the Today programme to talk about why we were going there – and I asked the government to help. They did, and so we arrived to set up a field hospital. That team was called SMART (South Manchester Accident Rescue Team), and UK-Med followed on from SMART.”

Tony explains “This is an important anniversary for the international response and an experience for me that shaped my professional career. I remember the very brave Armenian people who responded stoically to a tragedy of immense proportions and the generosity they showed me and my team”. Returning from Armenia and the team were diverted to attend the scene of the Lockerbie air disaster.

The ethos that drove that original team of eight still drives UK-Med today. When disasters hit, there is an urgent need for a skillled emergency healthcare surge to support the local provision overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. The charity is part of the UK Emergency Medical Team, a group of partners that is funded by the Department of International Development to respond to natural and man-made disasters.

David Wightwick, CEO of UK-Med said, “Today we are remembering why it’s important to act in the face of humanitarian crisis. When UK-Med deploys, it’s to save lives, alleviate suffering and restore dignity. Every year, millions of people are affected by humanitarian crises worldwide. Conflict and protracted crisis, displacement, increasingly severe natural disasters, climate change and economic instability generate rising need amongst some of the most vulnerable populations. Within any humanitarian crisis the requirement for essential health care is fundamental. In the immediate days following sudden onset disasters, such as earthquakes and cyclones, expert trauma and surgical care provides vital life-saving support. UK-Med is one of the small number of international agencies able to act rapidly and provide appropriate high quality health care at scale and only a few WHO verified Emergency Medical Teams capable of responding globally to urgent spikes in need, and so we’re looking to grow in order to meet this need.”

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Additionally to learn more about the Armenian earthquake, Professor Tony Redmond OBE, will be speaking on Wednesday 12th December at ‘Aftershocks: The Armenian Earthquake and Humanitarianism at the end of the Cold War?’ The event reflects on the humanitarian response to the earthquake, its impact on a world divided by the Cold War, and its continuing legacies both for the Armenian population, but also the humanitarian community. The event has been organised by The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), a global centre for the study of humanitarianism and response, global health, international disaster management and peacebuilding. For further information about HCRI or the event please visit: https://www.hcri.manchester.ac.uk/