Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta

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Contact the Malteser-Hilfdienst Auslandsdienst Steinfeldergasse 9
D-50670 Köln
+49 / 221 / 160 2902 +49 / 221 / 160 2963

The permanent secretary of Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta has been installed in the Foreign Service of the German Malteser Hilfdienst. ECOM's range of activities mainly involve first-aid to people, and especially women and children, in disaster-struck areas.

The idea of ECOM is to be able to respond in a flexible and suitable manner to various types of disaster and emergency situations. The Emergency Relief Detachment, main tool of ECOM in the field, is structured around various teams, called Operational Modules, including :

  • Mobile Ambulance Units
  • Detached Medical Units
  • Kitchen and Food Supply Units
  • Housing Units
  • Water Purification Units

In most cases, these modules are planned to interact with each other, albeit some of them are able to work independently.

ECOM currently regroups hospitaller services of Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Irland and Switzerland.

More about ECOM

Earthquakes and storms, droughts and floods, civil strife and wars, population displacement and tides of refugees - hardly a day passes without the news being dominated by these calamitous events all over the world which we commonly call disasters.

Meeting the challenge posed by them in an international effort has by now become one of the foremost tasks of relief agencies and humanitarian organizations.

The Order of Malta, in pursuance of its traditional ideal to help the needy in whatever circunstances, has, particularly in more recent years, been able to acquire valuable expert knowledge in emergency aid and disaster relief missions. Suffice it to recall th by now long-standing humanitarian commitment in Hungary, Romania and the successor states of the former Soviet Union, the more recent effort of emergencey aid to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and, finally, the large-scale relief operations in Northern Iraq.

Because of this considerable and varied experience, the Order has now decided to give its commitment in this field a more permanent basis by establishing a multi-national disaster relief corp to which its national associations and services are asked to contribute. As a first step, representatives of the national associations and services of Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy have been invited by the Hospitaller to constitute the Central Disaster Relief Council (CDRC), a joint body whose task it is to devise a concept of how to establish and bring into action an EMERGENCY CORPS OF THE ORDER OF MALTA (ECOM).

Aim of ECOM

ECOM is intended to enable the Order with its associations and its services to render emergency assistance to victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts. This will particularly be the case if a disaster-stricken country is not, or no longer, capable of coping with the emergency situation by its own means, and, therefore, external assistance is vital.

Hence, for ECOM to become an effective instrument, it will be necessary :

  • to have available a highly qualified and well-prepared volunteer corps of experts which can be mobilized quickly,
  • to be directed by a Mission Co-ordination Staff which has to be a well-established team, and chich, whenever possible, should be supranational,
  • to be capable of responding to various, and changing, needs profiles at the site of disaster,
  • to be able to launch and to perform relief operations within an international framework as well as in co-operation with several national services and associations of the Order,
  • to establish English as the common language of operations and as the soure of a standard terminology.

Capability of ECOM

The idea of ECOM is to be capable of responding flexibly and adequately to various types of disasters and emergency situations. For this purpose, the Emergency Relief Detachment, the full-scale instrument of ECOM at the field level, is designed to comprise various team components, the operational Modules.

For the most part, these modules are intended to complement each other, though some of them are also capable of working independently. Hence, some of them may be brought into action successively, while others have to be on the spot simultaneously. As to the composition of its personnel, each module may be staffed by volunteers of various national associations as well as of just one country.

Equipment and material, however, must conform to certains standards. This applies also, and perhaps, even more so, to the operational procedures of ECOM as a whole. Within this framework, each national association and service being party to the relief effort is invited to contribute according to its respective means.

  • Mobile Ambulance Units,
  • Detached Medical Units,
  • Kitchen and Food Supply Units,
  • Housing Units,
  • Water Purification Units.
  • In case of an earthquake, it may be necessary and appropriate also to bring into action a Search Dog Unit, which is ready to start within 18 hours, whereas it takes up to three days to get the other modules ready for mission.

The task of the Mobile Ambulance Unit is to ensure a primary health care for persons living in the periphery of disaster areas (camps, villages, settlements, etc.), who do not need further and more extensive assistance of any kind. The unit works close by the Base Camp, to where it returns every day.

The Detached Medical Unit has to provide outpatient medical care forfor persons living in those peripheral parts of a disaster area which are difficult to reach. Therefore, the team is capable of operating independently for up to one week.

If necessary, Housing Units, Kitchen and Food Supply Units, and Water Purification Units will be added to support the relief effort of the Detached Medical Unit. These components have the capability of providing food, water, shelter, and basic hygienic facilities for up to 1'000 persons.

How many, and which, of the proposed modules will actually be ready in the forthcoming year for a relief mission as outlined in the above, cannot be said with any reasonable certainty. It is planned, however, to have at least a Reconnaissance Team and a Rapid Deployment Team launched on a mission in the course of 1993. A relief operation of just this "minumum" size is estimated to cost about 650'000 ECU in the first week of operation, including the initial costs of equipment and material, as well as expenses for transportation, personnel and insurance. Even though the standing charges for subsequent weeks of operation will of course be considerabily less, it certainly will require a breathtaking amount of money to engage in any relief effort. The question of finances, therefore, will be crucial to the success of the entire ECOM endeavour.

Paul Schultz - Winfried Sautter in Rivista Internazionale, 1992

Copyright © July 1997 / Museum of the Order of Malta