The European Medical Corps to Target Yellow Fever in Angola

The European Medical Corps (EMC) set up by the EU earlier this year is being sent on its first mission to Angola, in response to the outbreak of yellow fever.

This mosquito-transmitted disease, which could become a global crisis due to a lack of vaccines, was reported in Angola in December 2015. It has since spread to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, with cases reported also in Kenya, Uganda, Mauritania and China (among workers returning from Angola).

This will be the first deployment of the EMC, created in February 2016 in the wake of the west Africa Ebola crisis. The EMC provides a framework for mobilizing medical and public health teams from ten EU member states for response and preparedness operations inside or outside the EU. The EMC is part of the existing European Emergency Response Capacity established under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

The European Emergency Response Capacity, launched in 2014, has 18 response units including teams covering areas such as urban search and rescue, medical air evacuation, water purification and forest fire fighting. Further capacities (such as flood containment, labs for environmental emergencies, marine pollution) are in the process of being registered.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was established in 2001 to foster cooperation among national civil protection authorities across Europe and to enable coordinated assistance from the participating states to victims of natural and man-made disasters in Europe and elsewhere.

Earlier this month experts were calling on the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency of international concern and invoke its Emergency Use Assessment and Listing procedures, first introduced for the Ebola virus. The European response might indicate dissatisfaction with the WHO response thus far.

For the review of the WHO’s treatment of the Ebola outbreak in 2015 see here. See also J. Benton Heath, Global Emergency Power in the Age of Ebola, 57 Harvard J. Int’l. Law (2016).