ACCRA, Ghana, Dec 16, 2009 —
During a recent pandemic influenza planning workshop, representatives from 16 West African nations joined with personnel from the United Nations (UN), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to discuss pandemic contingency disaster response planning, December 7-11, 2009 in Accra, Ghana.
The five-day workshop was hosted by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre and sponsored and facilitated by U.S. Africa Command's Pandemic Response Program.
A series of morning briefings focused on various pandemic disaster management topics followed by country-specific planning sessions facilitated by the UN, Red Cross, WHO, and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Highlights included updates on the progress of East Africa pandemic disaster response planning; the logistics and transportation by the United Nations World Food Program; strategic communications presented by the International Federation of the Red Cross; whole of society approach to pandemic disaster preparedness and response by UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs; and stability and security considerations during a pandemic disaster presented by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces.
The planning workshop brought together a wide range of senior military and government officials involved in the national efforts to mitigate and recover from a pandemic influenza disaster.
Delegations from Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Tunisia, and the African Union consisted of both senior military officers and government officials involved in disaster and pandemic planning. In addition, delegations from East African nations of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda were available to present perspectives from a recent humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise called Natural Fire 10 and assist U.S. Africa Command staff with facilitation during breakout sessions.
U.S. Africa Command assists African militaries with pandemic response planning, as part of USAID's Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness (H2P) initiative, by:
Creating opportunities for senior and mid-level military leaders to train in disaster management, humanitarian assistance, and pandemic preparedness;
Assisting African nations in assessing their pandemic influenza preparedness and disaster response baseline;
Assisting national level authorities and their militaries in validating roles and responsibilities within the National Pandemic Disaster Response Plan;
Providing a mechanism for African nations to understand the roles of the international community (international organizations, NGOs, regional governments) in the management of a disaster pandemic response;
Promoting interoperability and enhancing capability of host nations to respond to complex humanitarian emergencies;
Identifying national and regional opportunities for improvement that will assist in the development of a multi-country response to pandemics and all hazards; and
Providing a mechanism for military response plans to be tested at the national, local and regional levels.
The Pandemic Response Program has a regional focus to help improve the capacity for regional collaboration in the event of emergencies such as a pandemic disaster. This was the first activity conducted in West Africa.
U.S. Africa Command plans to conduct a second table top exercise with West African nations in March, in addition to conducting bilateral assistance visits with individual nations.