Kenyan Military and Government Ministries Respond to Potential Disasters

Danielle Skinner
U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs

MOMBASA, Kenya - Commander Carlos Williams, director of education and civil military medicine, Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance, gives a brief on humanitarian assistance guidelines, August 24, 2010. The briefing was in preparation for the Kenya National Government Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise which brought in nearly 50 civilian and military representatives from Kenya as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop a national disaster response plan for Kenya. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
MOMBASA, Kenya - Members of a national security cell collaborate on responding to a potential disaster during the Kenya National Government Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise, August 25, 2010. Participants of the exercise were divided into four groups--communications, logistics, health, and security--to practice supporting a National Disaster Operations Center and developing responses to potential disasters. The five-day exercise was led by U.S. Africa Command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) PREPARE project. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
MOMBASA, Kenya - Members of a national health cell collaborate on responding to a potential disaster during the Kenya National Government Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise, August 25, 2010. Participants of the exercise were divided into four groups--communications, logistics, health, and security--to practice supporting a National Disaster Operations Center and developing responses to potential disasters. The five-day exercise was led by U.S. Africa Command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) PREPARE project. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
MOMBASA, Kenya - Members of a national communications cell collaborate on responding to a potential disaster during the Kenya National Government Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise, August 25, 2010. Participants of the exercise were divided into four groups--communications, logistics, health, and security--to practice supporting a National Disaster Operations Center and developing responses to potential disasters. The five-day exercise was led by U.S. Africa Command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) PREPARE project. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
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MOMBASA, Kenya, Aug 25, 2010 — Participants of Kenya's National Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise began the collaborative portion of the event, August 25, 2010, testing their ability to work together as a nation and respond to potential disaster scenarios.

Following two days of informational briefings and training on international health regulations, crisis communications, and humanitarian assistance guidelines, representatives from the Kenya Armed Forces and ministries of the Kenyan government put into practice what they learned.

Participants were grouped into four cells--communications, logistics, health, and security-- replicating the traditional model of a national disaster operational center. Also included in the groups were experts from key international agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Foreign Food & Agriculture (FAO), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Program (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to Lieutenant General (Retired) Joseph Inge, facilitator with the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, the purpose of this construct is to harmonize efforts of various ministries and agencies so that the national disaster response plan moves forward quickly and smoothly.

The groups were presented with various disaster and health scenarios and were required to work together among their units to develop appropriate responses. Members of the National Influenza Task Force under the Kenyan Ministry of Health comprised the health cell supporting the National Disaster Operations Center.

Coordination between each of the groups was facilitated by assigned liaison officers who maintained dialogue and kept each of the groups informed on updates to ensure a unified response

Katee Mwanza, Kenya Office of the President, explained more about his exercise role as the liaison for the security cell. According to Mwanza, each of the teams (communications, health, and logistics) require a certain level of security support, and his job is to collaborate with each of the groups and assess how the security team can best assist them. This includes providing security in the movement of materials, medicine, and food and monitoring entry points into Kenya.

"This is a very important exercise in that it is giving us a lot of information on how we can respond to a disaster," said Mwanza. "It teaches us about forming teams and also preparedness to respond to disasters. It opens our minds and eyes to see what we need during disasters and how can we work with other teams."

The three learning objectives for this exercise are for the Kenyans to improve understanding of their national level disaster response plans, increase awareness of the Kenyan ministries of government and how they interface with each other, and to be able to describe how the national disaster system works.

By knowing who to report to, when to report, and understanding the roles of outside organizations, Kenyans can increase their capacity to mitigate damage and suffering in the event of an actual disaster such as H1N1, flooding, drought, landslides, and acts of terrorism.

Logistical challenges stem from poor coordination, and that's why working with various agencies and ministries is so important in any kind of disaster, said Kenyan Major P.N. Muia, Ministry of Defence, Air Logistics.

Muia, part of the exercise logistics team, explained more about the role of the military in a disaster, particularly from a logistics standpoint.

"The Kenyan military has got a lot of capabilities and capacities in place as well as the deployment capability," Muia said. "This will be a good and valuable mechanism to support and provide both logistics and personnel support of the lead agency in any situation."

As part of the Kenya Air Force, Muia explained that military aircraft is an example of logistical equipment that can be used in the transportation of medicines, vaccines, core personnel, or the evacuation of people.

"The most valuable part of the exercise will be to make sure the pandemic is curtailed at the very inception before it starts affecting the whole mechanism, especially the economical mechanism of the country," he added.

The communications group also had an important role, focusing on what information should go out to the public and providing updates to the media on the unfolding disaster scenario.

Philip Muthoka Mwendo, Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, supported the communications cell throughout the week. He said he hoped this exercise could help the Kenyan government identify gaps in its national preparedness plan so that they can improve these issues before an emergency situation occurs.

"It's very important to work with the other sectors of the government and even the private sector because when you look at the critical infrastructure for any state, for the proper functioning and continuity of activities and services to the communities and the public, we all need to work together."

The five-day exercise was organized by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) project PREPARE implemented by the International Medical Corps. It brought together nearly 50 Kenyan civilian and military representatives along with experts from international agencies to assess and develop a national disaster response plan for Kenya.

See related article: Kenyan Civilian and Military Personnel Collaborate on Pandemic Response Plan


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