The rapid reaction unit "B-Fast"
Belgians in crisis situations are not the only people to benefit from Belgian solidarity. In the event of disasters and emergency situations affecting primarily the local population, the local authorities often ask for emergency aid from Belgium and the international community.
In 2000 the Belgian Council of Ministers decided to set up a cross-departmental rapid reaction unit known as the Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-FAST), which can be deployed in such situations.
The Royal Decree of 28 February 2003 governing the establishment of B-FAST defines ‘emergency aid abroad’ as “any deployment of personnel and/or equipment abroad, which is to be assessed on a caseby- case basis depending on the specific nature of the situation in the country hit by the catastrophe or calamity, and excluding the emergency aid provided for aftercare and rehabilitation […]”.
In other words, a B-FAST operation consists in the first place of short-term direct or indirect emergency aid abroad. For this aid, B-FAST can call on posted workers provided by bodies participating in B-FAST, such as the Ministry of Defence, FPS Home Affairs, FPS Health and FPS Foreign Affairs. Sometimes B-FAST limits its activities to providing material aid to a country that has been hit by a disaster, in which case it operates through one of its partners.
Active in the field
2007 saw B-FAST interventions in Peru in August following a severe earthquake that hit the country and in Mexico in November after floods affected over one million people there. In July and October, B-FAST provided an expert to the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) for missions to Pakistan and Ghana to assess the damage following major floods in those countries.
Lastly, B-FAST provided material assistance for a training course and an exercise organised in Lausanne by UNDAC in late April-early May 2007.