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16 Nov 2017 - WHO airlifts medical supplies to treat wounded in Islamic Republic of Iran-Iraq earthquake

  • Published in Other

16 November 2017, Cairo, Egypt – WHO has airlifted trauma kits and medical supplies to the Islamic Republic of Iran to support the treatment of thousands people injured as a result of the recent earthquake in the  Islamic Republic of Iran-Iraq border region. 

The supplies, enough to provide surgical care for up to 4000 trauma patients, were transported from WHO’s emergency logistical centre in Dubai to Kermanshah province in western Islamic Republic of Iran on 16 November at 10.30am local time. They were immediately delivered to hospitals and other health facilities receiving the injured.  

“Additional trauma kits are available in WHO’s emergency logistical centre in Dubai and will be delivered as needed to health facilities reporting shortages. Special emphasis will also be given to identifying specific health needs as a result of current colder temperatures in affected areas,” said Dr Michel Thieren, WHO Regional Emergency Director. “While there is no direct link between earthquakes and disease outbreaks, close monitoring for cases of infectious diseases, especially waterborne diseases, is also required.”

Almost 9400 people in the Islamic Republic of Iran were injured as a result of the earthquake, including more than 1000 people hospitalized in Kermanshah province with serious injuries, and 340 more who were transferred to hospitals in neighbouring provinces, including Tehran.

The two cities of Sar Pol Zahab and Ghasr Shirin in Kermanshah province, with a total population of almost 115 000 people, are reported to have suffered considerable damage, with almost 80% of infrastructure destroyed. One main hospital in the province was forced to close, and 49 more health facilities were damaged, but remain open.

In Iraq, the earthquake was felt in the major cities of Sulaimaniyah, Halabja, Erbil and Duhok, with a total of 8 fatalities and 525 people injured.  Darbandikhan in northern Sulaimaniyah was most affected, with damages to Darbandikhan hospital and Sharazoor maternity hospital.  

Immediately following the earthquake, WHO’s office in Iraq deployed a medical team and three ambulances, and delivered 4 tents and emergency lifesaving supplies sufficient for 200 surgical operations, to hospitals in Sulaimaniyah governorate receiving critical cases. 

WHO continues to work closely with national health authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq to monitor the health impact of the earthquake and respond to urgent needs. 



25 Oct 2017 - UN working with Iran to build emergency medical teams to halt epidemic outbreaks

  • Published in Health

Remember those movies where an international epidemic breaks out and the international community “surges” a medical response team instantly to solve the problem?

Well, as we know from hard experience, including the recent Ebola pandemic in West Africa, this rarely occurs in real life.

In reality, responses to epidemics and disasters are often too slow, usually uncoordinated, and do not deliver the response to the places in greatest need.

That is why, back in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a system which will ensure quality standards for emergency medical teams (EMTs) in emergency and outbreak settings.  To date over 75 teams have completed the process and are fully classified. 

20171026 unrc01Group photo of the participants

By the end of 2017, the number of such teams is expected to rise to 200.  This will make available to the international community, a potential emergency workforce of over 100,000 people.

Iran has indicated it wants to be part of such a system.  Both to have WHO-accredited EMTs within the country and to be able to supply EMTs in the region in response to potential emergencies and outbreaks, should they occur in neighboring countries.

As part of this process, this week, the WHO – in coordination with Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education and the Iranian Red Crescent Society – organized a training workshop in Tehran to provide guidance on EMT operations, logistics and coordination.  The overall aim is to provide an opportunity for key country health and emergency service leaders and members of Iran’s EMT task force to strengthen national capacity.

Speaking at the concluding ceremony today, UN Resident Coordinator, Gary Lewis said: “It is a sad reality that in medical responses involving direct patient care, ‘good intentions’ are never enough.  EMTs need to be properly trained.  They must have the right equipment and supplies.  This will enable them to work in a safe manner, rather than arriving uncoordinated, not self-sufficient and – instead of helping – becoming a burden on the community affected.” 

International best practice shows that national teams of medical and public health providers are always the most appropriate first responders.  Building on this premise, WHO is advocating for a stronger national and regional system of preparedness and response.

“This will save more lives, and the work will be carried out in a more culturally-appropriate manner,” Mr. Lewis said.

For this reason, the WHO EMT initiative does not only focus on international responders.  In fact, its main emphasis is to strengthen the national EMTs and public-health, rapid-response system.  It will also strengthen the Ministry of Health’s ability to identify, accept and coordinate elements of the global health emergency workforce consistent with its needs.

Following the workshop, Iran’s Ministry of Health will create a working group/task force to manage the initiative. 

The next steps after this will be to develop and accredit national EMTs, while enhancing the capacity of existing EMTs to be quality-assured by WHO and join the global registry of verified teams ready for international deployment.

In time, the ability of countries to really – and effectively – and quickly – respond to future emergencies and outbreaks will no longer be confined to events depicted on the silver screen.  They will be an actual reality on the ground.



Mr. Christoph Hamelmann - WHO


Mr. Christoph Hamelmann



Nationality: Germany

Academic background: medicine and economics, postgraduate degrees in molecular biology, epidemiology and health systems management.


Work Experience:

April 2018 – present:  WHO Representative in the I.R. Iran.

2016 - 2018:  Head of Office, WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development (IHD), based in Venice, Italy.

2014 - 2016:   UNDP Regional Team Leader and Senior Advisor, HIV, Health and Development (HHD), Europe, Central Asia and Arab States, based in Istanbul, Turkey.

2011 - 2014:  UNDP Regional Practice Leader HIV, Health and Development (HHD), UNDP Regional Center Europe and Central Asia, based in Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

2007 - 2011: Country Director, Family Health International (FHI) Nigeria and Chief of Party of the GHAIN project, Abuja, Nigeria.

2006-2007: Deputy Chief of Party/Technical, Family Health International (FHI) / Global HIV AIDS Initiative Nigeria (GHAIN) Project, Abuja, Nigeria.

2002 - 2006:  DFID Senior Technical Adviser on full-time secondment to the National Department of Health South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa.

1997 - 2002:   Founder-Director and Senior Scientist, Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR), Kumasi, Ghana. Joint venture between the School of Medical Sciences/University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, the Ministry of Health, Ghana, and the Ministry of Health, Germany, through the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.

1994 - 1997:   AMREF AIDS/STI and Sexual & Reproductive Health

Program Director, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

1993 - 1994:   Research Fellow in HIV/AIDS Epidemiology, Imperial College, London.

1992:   Medical Officer General Surgery, Hamburg, Germany.

1989 - 1991:   Research Fellow in Molecular Immunology and Parasitology, Bernhard Nocht Institute, Hamburg, Germany.

1985-1989: Medical Officer Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emergency and Intensive Care, Family Practice, at various hospitals in Germany.

1983 - 1985:    Part-time lecturer for Health Education Institute for

Adult Education Hannover, Germany.

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