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Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise Closes in Benin
Participants of U.S. Africa Command&#39;s West Africa Disaster Response Exercise summarized lessons learned and discussed ways ahead, June 25, 2010, wrapping up the five-day event in Cotonou, Benin. <br /> <br />Attending closing day briefings and
COTONOU, Benin - Partipants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise listen to final remarks by keynote speakers during the event's closing ceremony, June 25, 2010 in Cotonou, Benin. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
5 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 5: COTONOU, Benin - Partipants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise listen to final remarks by keynote speakers during the event's closing ceremony, June 25, 2010 in Cotonou, Benin. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
COTONOU, Benin - Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin&#39;s Chief of Defense, accepts a gift from Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command&#39;s mobilization reserve assistant to the commander, during closing ceremonies of the West African Pandemic Response Exercise in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010. Also pictured is U.S. Ambassador to Benin James Knight. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
5 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 5: COTONOU, Benin - Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin's Chief of Defense, accepts a gift from Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command's mobilization reserve assistant to the commander, during closing ceremonies of the West African Pandemic Response Exercise in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010. Also pictured is U.S. Ambassador to Benin James Knight. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
COTONOU, Benin - Armand Zinzindohoue, Benin's Minister of Interior and Public Security, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010.  The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
5 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 5: COTONOU, Benin - Armand Zinzindohoue, Benin's Minister of Interior and Public Security, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
COTONOU, Benin - A woman walks along flooded streets in Cotonou, Benin, June 20, 2010. Flooding occurs annually in Benin during the rainy season of July through September and can impact the nation's health, security, economic and food infrastructures. It can also be a fertile breeding ground for the spread of pandemic influenza, which was the focus of the <a href= http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=4700&lang=0>U.S. Africa Command West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise</a> in Cotonou. (Photo by Danielle Skinner)
5 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 4 of 5: COTONOU, Benin - A woman walks along flooded streets in Cotonou, Benin, June 20, 2010. Flooding occurs annually in Benin during the rainy season of July through September and can impact the nation's health, security, economic and food infrastructures. It can also be a fertile breeding ground for the spread of pandemic influenza, which was the focus of the U.S. Africa Command West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise in Cotonou. (Photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
COTONOU, Benin - Kevin Armstrong, mission director for U.S. Agency for International Development-Benin, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010.  The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
5 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 5 of 5: COTONOU, Benin - Kevin Armstrong, mission director for U.S. Agency for International Development-Benin, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner) Download full-resolution version
COTONOU, Benin - Partipants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise listen to final remarks by keynote speakers during the event's closing ceremony, June 25, 2010 in Cotonou, Benin. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
COTONOU, Benin - Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin&#39;s Chief of Defense, accepts a gift from Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command&#39;s mobilization reserve assistant to the commander, during closing ceremonies of the West African Pandemic Response Exercise in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010. Also pictured is U.S. Ambassador to Benin James Knight. The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
COTONOU, Benin - Armand Zinzindohoue, Benin's Minister of Interior and Public Security, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010.  The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
COTONOU, Benin - A woman walks along flooded streets in Cotonou, Benin, June 20, 2010. Flooding occurs annually in Benin during the rainy season of July through September and can impact the nation's health, security, economic and food infrastructures. It can also be a fertile breeding ground for the spread of pandemic influenza, which was the focus of the <a href= http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=4700&lang=0>U.S. Africa Command West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise</a> in Cotonou. (Photo by Danielle Skinner)
COTONOU, Benin - Kevin Armstrong, mission director for U.S. Agency for International Development-Benin, addresses participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Pandemic Disaster Response Exercise during closing ceremonies in Cotonou, Benin, June 25, 2010.  The five-day exercise, led by U.S. Africa command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), brought together civilian and military representatives from 15 African nations as well as experts from international agencies to assess and develop national and regional disaster response plans. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Danielle Skinner)
Participants of U.S. Africa Command's West Africa Disaster Response Exercise summarized lessons learned and discussed ways ahead, June 25, 2010, wrapping up the five-day event in Cotonou, Benin.

Attending closing day briefings and ceremonies were senior leader representatives including Armand Zinzindohoue, Ministry of Interior and Public Security; Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin's Chief of Defense, Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command's mobilization reserve assistant to the commander; Kevin Armstrong, U.S. Agency for International Development-Benin; and U.S. Ambassador to Benin James Knight.

"This conference has really challenged us to think outside our traditional roles of the military in coordination with national, regional, and international organizations. It is only by working under the civilian national disaster assistance authorities that we can succeed in harnessing all of the talent to tackle the toughest of pandemic disasters," said Kevin Armstrong, mission director for USAID.

More than a hundred military and civilian representatives from 15 African countries, the African Union, as well as national and international organizations participated in the exercise, which was designed to assist the Beninese government and its regional partners with identifying gaps in their current influenza plan and practice responding to potential disaster scenarios. The exercise was led by U.S. Africa Command with the support of the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM).

Throughout the week, participants were divided into three groups (national, regional, and military) to address key issues and events related to a complex humanitarian emergency. Exercise facilitators stressed civilian-military cooperation as well as regional cooperation as crucial aspects of an effective response plan.

In his keynote speech, U.S. Ambassador to Benin James Knight stressed that this exercise is only the first stage of an ongoing effort to ensure that West Africa's regional and national capabilities for disaster response are developed as fully as possible.

"Interoperability in the most important sense means that we understand each other's systems, we understand the key decision making process and we can integrate those across the region, and within the country," said Knight.

Leading the regional working group during the exercise was General Tahir Umar from Nigeria's Ministry of Defense. He expressed how valuable the exercise was to the West African region in terms of acting in concert with other countries.

"I think one of the very good things about this exercise is we are able to exchange ideas and we see where we commonly agree, where we have differences, see why we have those differences, and we are able to cooperate in order to have a common decision," said Umar.

Major Gabin Chahounka from Benin's Armed Forces agreed on the importance of regional coordination.

"It's important to have all the network countries together because the disease doesn't know any boundaries. It can spread everywhere, so it's important to have regional coordination."

Chahounka also stated that this exercise will help the military support the Benin government's response to the current flooding throughout Cotonou. The flooding occurs annually in Benin during the rainy season of July through September.

Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin's Chief of Defense, invited Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command's mobilization reserve assistant to the commander, to view the flooded areas which included a local military base.

"This visit added another layer of realism to the exercise as I viewed first-hand how the effects of flooding can impact the health, security, economic and food infrastructures of a society," said Harris. "The flooding can also be a fertile breeding ground for the spread of a pandemic influenza."

African partner nations shared similar examples of flooding in their nations and offered strategies and remedies to assist.

"I think that the most important thing that we learned during this exercise is our own strengths and weaknesses," added Chahounka. We discovered that our emergency management plan had a lot of weaknesses, and we discovered how to deal with that and how to improve the plan. So to this point the exercise was really beneficial for us."

U.S. Africa Command will continue its engagements in West Africa for the participating countries. These exercises are conducted through the command's Pandemic Response Program (PRP) which is designed to assist African militaries in strengthening their capabilities and capacities to respond to pandemic influenza in the context of a larger national pandemic preparedness and response plan.

PRP is funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of its umbrella program Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness Initiative (H2P).

See related articles:

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AFRICOM West Africa Pandemic Response Exercise Kicks Off in Benin

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