Friday, August 5, 2011

West Africa experts tested on their disaster response skills

George Fominyen in AlertNet: Picture the scene: terrified, hungry crowds go on the rampage, attacking cars belonging to humanitarian organisations, storming warehouses to steal food and fuel supplies. As a government what do you do? How, when and where do you deploy security forces to restore some order to your streets? How do you coordinate civilian and military players to provide emergency relief?

Those were some the questions facing disaster management officials from the West African countries of Benin, Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal, who took part in a recent simulation exercise aimed at testing the effectiveness of their decision-making. Run by the World Food Programme (WFP), the simulation exercise was held in Senegal's capital, Dakar, and involved responding to a hypothetical influenza pandemic.

West Africa is more used to dealing with natural disasters such as seasonal flooding, so how did their officials do? "We realised that we still had to improve on a lot of things in the area of coordination," Eugene Hountondji, the head of safety and civil protection training in Benin's interior ministry, told AlertNet. The officials were told to imagine a high death rate and the disruption a severe pandemic would cause a society, compared with the relatively localised problems of flooding....

A 2005 flood in Dakar, shot by MyriamLouviot, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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