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Rehabilitation in emergencies

The World Health Organisation’s Emergency Medical Team Initiative  responds to humanitarian crisis globally, such as an earthquake, disease outbreak or tsunami.

NHS physiotherapist Maeve Tohill reasures a child lying in a hospital bed during the Measles outbreak in Samoa, 2019.

NHS physiotherapist Maeve Tohill, supporting the Measles outbreak in Samoa, 2019. | © UK-Med

Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) are part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) response to humanitarian emergencies overseas, such as an earthquake, infectious disease outbreak or tsunami.

Since 2013, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has been supporting the integration of rehabilitation into the WHO EMT Iinitiative. Today, HI continues to support rehabilitation in emergency settings, both through the WHO initiative and our own emergency rehabilitation teams.

Integrating rehabilitation

HI’s work alongside the WHO to integrate rehabilitation into EMTs has involved supporting the recruitment of rehabilitation professionals, providing specialist humanitarian training, and working with international organisations and partners to advocate for the importance of rehabilitation. This means that now, as well as surgery and emergency healthcare, patient care includes early rehabilitation, including the provision of essential equipment such as wheelchairs and orthotics, psychosocial support, and onward referral.

HI has also played a key role in EMT deployments to the Philippines (2013), Gaza (2014), Nepal (2015), Samoa (2019) and Lebanon (2020). By linking EMTs to HI’s own field teams operating in disaster zones, we are able to ensure all patients receive long term follow-up care, which until now has been a major challenge for emergency medical teams.

HI has developed a package of resources to support the project. This includes the first ever clinical manual on rehabilitation in disasters, a briefing paper on disaster management for physiotherapists, a "do's and don’ts" guide for rehabilitation professionals responding to disasters, and a handbook on Early Rehabilitation in Conflict and Disasters that has an accompanying free e-learning course.

 By providing free clinical and humanitarian training for health professionals, we aim to strengthen the global humanitarian community. We have worked closely with many global professional groups to ensure all our training meets international standards of excellence.

WHO rehabilitation standards for emergency teams

HI has worked with the WHO Emergency Medical Teams Initiative to expand the Minimum Technical Standards and Recommendations for Rehabilitation. These standards go a long way towards ensuring that all responding agencies will now consider early rehabilitation and continuity of care as part of their response.Ancre

Project resources

The package of resources developed by HI to support the UKEMT project and wider rehabilitation community is available to download below.

 ► Clinical manual: Rehabilitation in Sudden Onset Disasters (pdf, 22 MB. Warning - large file!)

► WCPT briefing paper: The role of physical therapists in  disaster management (pdf, 2.7 MB)

► Responding internationally to disasters: A do's and don’ts guide for rehabilitation professionals (pdf, 2.1 MB)

► Emergency Medical Teams: WHO Minimum Technical Standards and Recommendations for Rehabilitation (pdf, 969 KB)

► Early Rehabilitation in Conflicts and Disasters Handbook (English) (pdf, 5.3 MB)

French and Arabic versions of the handbook, plus videos and links to the e-learning are available at

Contact us

If you would like to get in touch with the HI rehabilitation team in the UK, please email: [email protected].

Find out more

If you are a health professional interested in the UK Emergency Medical Team, you can find more information at: 

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UKEMT rehabilitation news: 2021 to date
© Brice Blondel/HI

UKEMT rehabilitation news: 2021 to date

Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation team reflects on the progress made in 2021 and provides updates from the UK Emergency Medical Team (UKEMT).

British physiotherapists tackle deadly measles outbreak in Samoa
© Anna Daniell UK-Med

British physiotherapists tackle deadly measles outbreak in Samoa

In December 2019, the UK Emergency Medical Team (UKEMT), including three physiotherapists, travelled to Samoa to help save lives following a deadly outbreak of measles on the Pacific island. Funded by UK Aid, the UKEMT is the front line of the UK’s response to a humanitarian crisis overseas.

UK activities
© Corentin Fohlen/HI

UK activities