After a week of working together, collaborating in cells and chartering how Nigeria’s Pandemic Disaster Response plan could be used in a real world emergency, the participants of the tabletop exercise celebrated a successful event in a closing ceremony November 22, 2013.
More than 100 civilians, military officials, and representatives from Nigeria’s security sectors, as well as observing countries which included Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, participated in the tabletop exercise.
“This event marks the beginning of a new phase in our (Nigeria’s) strategic partnership with the U.S. Government, through the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the U.S. Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), and its allies towards enhancing our capacities and capabilities in the management of Influenza pandemics and other related disasters,” said Daniel Gambo, Deputy Director of the Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). “NEMA, on behalf of the Nigerian President Ebele Jonathan Goodluck, and the good people of Nigeria, indeed, accept warmly this act of fellowship.”
The tabletop exercise was funded by U.S. Africa Command in collaboration with CDHAM and hosted by the Nigerian government.
“To all of you, congratulations on a job well done,” said Brigadier General Stayce Harris, an event participant from U.S. 18th Air Force. “You should all be very proud of yourselves and the work you’ve accomplished this past week for your nation. In my opinion, there is no greater duty than saving lives. That is the commendable work you all do every day, and I thank you.”
The purpose of the exercise was to identify how the Nigerian military can partner with the civilian sector as well as international organizations to develop a "whole of government" pandemic disaster response.
To do this, the Nigerian government, in partnership with the U.S. identified six objectives.
- Assist Nigeria in assessing the baseline preparedness and response to pandemic influenza.
- Assigning and validating roles and responsibilities within the Pandemic Response Plan.
- Provide training to senior and mid-level military and civilian leaders on how to organize and coordinate communications in the event of a disaster.
- Identify roles and responsibilities of international organizations.
- Promote interoperability capabilities during complex humanitarian emergencies.
- Identify local and national opportunities for improvements.
The week, packed with opportunities for communication, coordination and partnership building, impressed many of the high ranking officials from across Africa and the United States.
“I was especially impressed with the interagency and international cooperation that you’ve demonstrated in going through the process of (reviewing this plan),” said Brigadier General David Baldwin, Adjutant General of the California Army National Guard. “The key to interagency and international success is that cooperation is built upon both the professional and personal relationships that you’ve developed here. I charge you to continue to develop those (relationships) so that we can all grow and get better together.”
During the week, participants broke into small groups, rehearsing their roles in a realistic, simulated emergency. These groups included an operations command post, communications, medical, logistics, and security group. Each group was assigned a team leader and documented their progress, challenges and best practices so as to improve the country’s Pandemic Disaster Response Plan.
Team members identified strengths and weaknesses of the plan and laid out the roadmap to develop new capacities for future events.
“This is not really a closing ceremony per se, but a culmination of a series of events that have helped build the course of the last few days, involving national pandemic and military assistance to civil authority plan, the disaster preparedness strategic roadmap and all the collaborative relationships that have been developed” said Michael Hryshchyshyn, chief of AFRICOM’s Humanitarian and Health Activities. “It is a time to reflect, not only upon the great work which has been accomplished here, but more importantly to think about the steps that you (Nigerians) will be taking to bring these plans to life. I would like to underline that these plans are living documents; they are not statics.”
Apart from identifying the strength and gaps, participants also responded to scenarios of a severe health related disaster to test the implementation of the plans and identify ways to improve them.
“In a way our work is actually never completed,” Hryshchyshyn added. “We at U.S. AFRICOM look forward to continuing to work on this partnership together. This is not the end of our efforts. In many ways, this is another milestone on the road forward. We will continue to work with you diligently to enhance our partnership. As we build stronger systems, together we will achieve mutual success in mitigating complex emergencies such as pandemics, floods and other challenges that Nigeria can now face with confidence.”
To view more photos of the event, visit our Flickr page.