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16 African Nations, AFRICOM Gather for Africa's Largest Pandemic Response Planning Conference
Representatives from 16 African nations and the United States, including senior government officials, public health professionals, and military officers, came together August 27-31, 2012, at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre
ACCRA, Ghana - Delegates of U.S. Africa Command's Pandemic Response Program conference, "Past, Present, and Future," prepare for the opening ceremony, August 27, 2012, to welcome 16 African nations. From left to right: Ambassador Sheila Sisulu, deputy executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme Hunger Solutions; Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command; H.E. Reverand Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management; Erik Threet, U.S. Africa Command Pandemic Response program manager; Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre; and Flt Lieutenant Isaac Oppong, aide-de-camp to the commandant. (U.S. AFRICOM photo)
2 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 2: ACCRA, Ghana - Delegates of U.S. Africa Command's Pandemic Response Program conference, "Past, Present, and Future," prepare for the opening ceremony, August 27, 2012, to welcome 16 African nations. From left to right: Ambassador Sheila Sisulu, deputy executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme Hunger Solutions; Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command; H.E. Reverand Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management; Erik Threet, U.S. Africa Command Pandemic Response program manager; Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre; and Flt Lieutenant Isaac Oppong, aide-de-camp to the commandant. (U.S. AFRICOM photo) Download full-resolution version
ACCRA, Ghana - Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, shakes hands with Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command, following the opening ceremony of U.S. AFRICOM's Pandemic Response Program, "Past, Present, and Future" conference in Accra, Ghana, August 27-31, 2012. Also pictured is H.E. Rev. Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management. (U.S. AFRICOM photo)
2 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 2: ACCRA, Ghana - Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, shakes hands with Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command, following the opening ceremony of U.S. AFRICOM's Pandemic Response Program, "Past, Present, and Future" conference in Accra, Ghana, August 27-31, 2012. Also pictured is H.E. Rev. Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management. (U.S. AFRICOM photo) Download full-resolution version
ACCRA, Ghana - Delegates of U.S. Africa Command's Pandemic Response Program conference, "Past, Present, and Future," prepare for the opening ceremony, August 27, 2012, to welcome 16 African nations. From left to right: Ambassador Sheila Sisulu, deputy executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme Hunger Solutions; Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command; H.E. Reverand Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management; Erik Threet, U.S. Africa Command Pandemic Response program manager; Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre; and Flt Lieutenant Isaac Oppong, aide-de-camp to the commandant. (U.S. AFRICOM photo)
ACCRA, Ghana - Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, commandant of Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, shakes hands with Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Africa Command, following the opening ceremony of U.S. AFRICOM's Pandemic Response Program, "Past, Present, and Future" conference in Accra, Ghana, August 27-31, 2012. Also pictured is H.E. Rev. Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of state and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management. (U.S. AFRICOM photo)
Representatives from 16 African nations and the United States, including senior government officials, public health professionals, and military officers, came together August 27-31, 2012, at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra, Ghana, for the largest pandemic conference ever conducted among African nations.



Air Vice Marshall Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, the commandant of the Kofi Annan center, welcomed 175 participants to the Pandemic Response Program's "Past, Present and Future" conference, which was co-hosted by the government of Ghana and U.S. Africa Command.



"For those working on the peace, security and development agenda," said Dovlo, "all of us must be painfully and fully aware that a global pandemic has greater potential for affecting population morbidity and mortality than any other existing public health threat, and thereby has the possibility of disrupting society on multiple levels."



H.E. Reverend Dr. Nii Amoo Darku, member of the council of State and chairman of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Risk Management, told the African delegates that "as leaders of our countries in Africa, our endeavors must strengthen at preventing disasters from devastating our people and significantly mitigate the impact of disasters that may strike our respective countries and restore hope for continuation of sustainable life."



He added, "Look without borders to build regional capacities through leveraging and building synergies for preparedness, response and recovery to disasters like a severe pandemic."



U.S. Africa Command aims to foster stability within its area of responsibility through strong and lasting strategic partnerships and by delivering sustained and effective security cooperation programs, such as the Pandemic Response Program, explained Brigadier General Charles Chiarotti, deputy director for U.S. AFRICOM's Strategy, Plans, and Programs directorate.



"Global pandemics are not simply a health, social, or economic matter, but it is also a national security concern," said Chiarotti. "Regionally, it also has strategic implications. Political will and leadership are the two main elements essential for planning, preparing and responding to mitigate and recover from a severe pandemic that is beyond the capabilities of a nation's Ministry of Health. "



According to Michael Hryshchyshyn, chief of U.S. AFRICOM's Humanitarian and Health Activities branch, the conference was the culmination of the first-generation Pandemic Response Program (PRP). Introduced by U.S. Africa Command in 2009, PRP was designed to improve the ability of African nations to respond to a severe global influenza pandemic.



Throughout the past three years, AFRICOM has engaged with 18 partner nations and conducted nine pandemic table top exercises. The command has assisted with the development of 10 national military contingency pandemic disaster response plans and two civilian national contingency pandemic disaster response plans.



During the 2012 conference, participants met in country-specific sessions to review past efforts to prepare for a severe global influenza pandemic, assess their current level of preparedness, and develop country-level project work plans to address shortfalls and to guide future efforts. These country-level work plans were then presented to their regional neighbors, providing an opportunity to share ideas.



In regional sessions, participants discussed the establishment of a regional disaster management technical capability and the development of regional stockpiles of disaster response equipment and supplies to supplement national stockpiles. They also developed work plans for each region.



According to conference organizers, these sessions were the first known development of regional work plans to address the challenges of a potential severe global pandemic. According to Dr. Daniel Eklu, director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs from the Economic Community of West African States Commission, the regional sessions "were very important because they provided an opportunity for better integration of national pandemic preparedness efforts and to build synergy among neighboring countries, something that is very useful."



PRP resources will be allocated to support the implementation of the work plans developed by partner nations and regional groups following a review by U.S. Africa Command and the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM).

During closing remarks, Brigadier General Benjamin F. Kusi, deputy commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, talked about the importance of cooperation among military, civil leadership, international and non-governmental organizations, and other agencies in mitigating and recovering from a pandemic disaster.



The final presentations provided information on the future of the Pandemic Response Program, which recently received U.S. Government funding from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to expand its activities.



"The focus of PRP in coming years will be continued development of a pandemic and disaster management training and exercise program and expansion of current pandemic planning efforts, with the ultimate goal of ensuring a sustained engagement with each nation that significantly increases their ability to respond to a severe global pandemic," said Erik Threet, PRP program manager.



The initial phase of PRP focused on 10 of the 18 PRP partner nations. Threet explained that many of the future initiatives will engage the remaining partner nations, while maintaining engagement with nations with which PRP has been working for the past three years.



The importance of future PRP pandemic preparedness efforts was further emphasized by Major General Francis Okello, commandant of Uganda People's Defence Forces Rapid Deployment Capability Center. "However strong we are in pandemic response, our strength will depend on the weakest partner and how fast we can bring them up," he said.



Threet agreed with Okello, summing up the importance of the conference by stating, "At the end of the day, we're all in this together…"

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