Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Health renew agreement to provide humanitarian emergency response to developing countries

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya and the Minister for Health, Carolina Darias, have today renewed the agreement whereby the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Spanish acronym: AECID) and the National Health System (Spanish acronym: SNS) will facilitate the deployment of the Spanish Technical Aid Response Team (START) to provide a humanitarian emergency response in developing countries.

The signing of this agreement, in force for four years and renewable for an additional four, will allow a human and logistics team to be deployed in less than 72 hours anywhere in the world to intervene in any humanitarian emergency in which Spanish Cooperation decides to act.

After signing the agreement, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation highlighted the collaboration between Spanish diplomacy and the National Health System to develop the START programme that presents us to the world “as a supportive nation”, which will become stronger if our peer countries do the same. Arancha González Laya took the opportunity of her speech to pass on her congratulations to the red vested workers who, in her opinion, “symbolise this effort at humanitarian diplomacy”. She also stressed the “great responsibility” of the members of this initiative who represent the solidarity of the Spanish people, the excellence and commitment of its healthcare workers, and the rest of the emergency team of the regional governments. “The pride of working together as Team Spain”, she said, summing up.

For her part, the Minister for Health stressed that the START team is an example of coordination and cohesion, both with other countries and between the different autonomous regions.

Along this line, Carolina Darias underlined the importance of collaboration between the different public authorities involved in the operations on the international stage, the hallmark of Spanish Cooperation and of the National Health System, which is committed to maintaining and strengthening it.

'Red vested workers'

Known as the “chalecos rojos” [red vests], START was set up in 2016 by AECID. The team includes, in addition to medical and nursing personnel from the National Health System, other healthcare workers, experts in water and sanitation, logistics and electricity and electronics technicians, among other key professionals to tackle humanitarian emergencies.

The health team is wholly made up of volunteers. START can be deployed with humanitarian workers and material, or just with workers. Its medical team is classified as level 2 (EMT2), in other words, it has a field hospital with surgical capabilities, and can hospitalise up to 20 patients.

By undertaking this project, Spain is placed among the benchmark countries, both at a European level and an international level in terms of response to medical emergencies of an international nature stemming from disasters.

START is an example of inter-administrative cooperation at an international, national and regional level. On the one hand, each deployment is previously approved by the World Health Organization (WHO); the logistics of each shipment are coordinated within the Team Europe initiative of the European Civil Protection Mechanism of the European Commission; and the different regional authorities transfer their healthcare workers from the National Health System in coordination with the central Ministry of Health. AECID – the agency attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation - heads up the implementation of the START team through its Humanitarian Action Office. As such, this is a model of inter-institutional, inclusive, reactive and standardised cooperation in response to disasters which facilitates an efficient response based on international quality standards.

The 5th Master Plan of Spanish Cooperation is aligned with SDG3 (Health and Well-being) of the 2030 Agenda, setting out that AECID will endeavour to strengthen the health system of its partner countries and to prepare and respond to health emergencies. The Ministry of Health agrees with these goals that START responds to.

Recent deployments

The first deployment of START took place in April 2019, in Mozambique, in response to the emergency caused by Cyclone Idai. In 2020, with no deployments or simulations, hard work was done on the START infrastructure to improve its performance. Noteworthy was the acquisition of new better quality tents, the increase in power for energy generation (including photovoltaic panels) and the acquisition of the necessary components to include a small oxygen generator.


START was deployed two weeks ago. Just 72 hours after the explosions at a military base in the Equatoguinean city of Bata, 14 members, including doctors, healthcare workers and experts in humanitarian aid joined in the work attending to those injured in the accident at three hospitals in the city. The previous day, AECID sent a shipment of medication, medical and surgical material and personal protective equipment on a chartered flight.



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