Medical Rescue Efforts in 2020

Eray Çınar
Dr., Ministry of Health, General Director of Emergency Health Services

The importance of disaster preparedness is better understood through the lessons that emerged from the Marmara earthquake in Turkey, which is exposed to many human- and nature-related disasters; serious disasters have been initiated on disaster preparedness and response, especially since 2003. Emergency health services, being an important component of disaster response, are aimed to be strengthened in this context; the National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) was established and consists of the volunteer health personnel who will respond to disasters throughout the country within the Ministry of Health.

UMKE is a medical rescue team composed of volunteer health personnel who’ve received the necessary basic and advanced trainings and are equipped appropriately for providing medical rescue and emergency health services within the time it takes to transport disaster victims and survivors in need of emergency health services in disasters and emergencies that occur in Turkey and abroad starting from the scene of the event to an ambulance or healthcare facility.

UMKE also takes part in events like CBRN events, fires and explosions, major traffic accidents, social events, terrorist incidents, mass migrations and large population movements, national and international sports competitions, and dangerous pandemic diseases.

Gaining great momentum with the implementation of the Health Transformation Program carried out by the Ministry of Health, UMKE’s efforts have made UMKE one of the leading medical rescue teams in the world. Today, UMKE ranks first in the world of medical rescue in terms of both the number of volunteer health personnel and the quality of medical teams specialized in various branches.

The National Medical Rescue Teams consist of voluntary personnel who constantly renew themselves, monitor technical developments, are full of self-confidence, have great physical condition, are leaders, have enhanced teamwork and team spirit awareness, are fully committed to the ethical values that devoted healthcare professionals must comply with, and are experts in their fields.

UMKE is always ready to intervene in any event or situation requiring immediate medical attention, especially disasters, with its 11,993 personnel who have already received the required training in 21 regions and 81 provinces. In particular, due to 2020 being an intense year in which a wide variety of disasters were experienced alongside the pandemic in Turkey and the world, UMKE has intervened and held humanitarian aid missions in many disasters and emergencies in the country and abroad.

Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Iran our border country, UMKE set up shelters and emergency response tents at our eastern border gates; measures have been taken that allowed the disease to enter Turkey even later than Europe. UMKE personnel have also been assigned throughout the country to the health services offered to citizens in isolation in the Ministry of Youth and Sports dormitories affiliated with the Higher Education Student Loan and Housing Board as well as to the monitoring processes there.

Thanks to the variety of tools in its inventory, UMKE is able to convey to the central organization of the department all kinds of information on the communication problems that may be experienced in disaster areas.

Apart from these assignments, UMKE has also taken an active role in the following humanitarian aid activities in 2020:

  • January 20, 2020: The explosion in Migadishu, Somalia where the wounded were evacuated by air
  • January 22, 2020: The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Manisa’s Akhisar District
  • January 24, 2020: The 6.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Elazığ’s Sivrice
  • February 4, 2020: A minibus and construction equipment got buried under an avalanche in the Karabet pass in Van’s Bahçesaray
  • February 26, 2020: The 5.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Malatya’s Pütürge District
  • February 29, 2020: Refugee mobility at the Edirne border crossing
  • June 14, 2020: The 5.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Bingöl’s Karlıova
  • June 25, 2020: The 5.4 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Van’s Özalp District
  • July 3, 2020: The fireworks factory explosion in Sakarya’s Hendek District
  • August 4, 2020: The explosion in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut
  • August 22, 2020: Landslides and flooding in Giresun Province
  • October 30, 2020: The 6.6 magnitude earthquake that occurred in İzmir’s Seferihisar District.
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