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Origins of Belgian First Aid and Support (B-FAST)
Following the earthquakes in Turkey in August and November 1999, Belgium was among the first countries to offer aid and assistance on both occasions. Although the aid provided was much appreciated, the Government felt it was necessary to set up a unit that could be mobilised at any time and which would enable us to offer a rapid and more effective response in emergency situations, especially when human lives were at stake.
In November 2000, at the suggestion of the Foreign, Home Affairs and Defence Ministers, the Belgian Council of Ministers approved the creation of a rapid reaction unit enabling emergency aid teams to be sent out to countries hit by a natural or manmade disaster. This proposal came to fruition with the adoption of the Royal Decree of 28 February 2003 establishing a Coordination Council for emergency aid abroad in the event of natural or manmade disasters and a permanent support service B-FAST (Belgian First Aid and Support Team).
Organisation of B-FAST
B-FAST is an cross-departmental unit, spanning the Prime Minister’s office, Federal Public Services Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Development Cooperation, Public Health & Environment, Home Affairs and Budget, as well as the Ministry of Defence. It is under the authority of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and is coordinated within our FPS by a team forming part of the services reporting to the Executive Committee Chairman.
In the event of a crisis, speed is all important. An immediate decision is needed and Belgian emergency assistance must be mobilised within 12 hours of the decision to intervene. As a rule, B-FAST interventions last for a maximum of 10 days.
For B-FAST to be mobilised, three conditions must be met:
- The disaster must be on such a scale that the aid services in the countries concerned are no longer able to provide the required assistance, and human lives or health are at risk.
- The authorities in the country affected must appeal for aid from Belgium or at least from the international community.
- There must be no armed conflict in the affected region.