Pandemic Response Exercise in Benin

The following blog is by Brigadier General Stayce D. Harris, U.S. Africa Command’s Mobilization Reserve Assistant to the Commander

I recently provided the opening remarks at U.S. Africa Command’s first pandemic response table top exercise in West Africa held in Cotonou, Benin, June 21-25, 2010.

Africa Command’s role, under the USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, is to assist in strengthening African partner military nations’ capacity to respond to a pandemic influenza disaster in the context of a larger national pandemic preparedness and response plan.

More than a hundred military and civilian representatives from more than a dozen African countries, the African Union, as well as national and international organizations participated in the exercise. It 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. Our Pandemic Response Program will continue to have a regional focus to help improve the capacity for regional collaboration in the event of a complex humanitarian emergency such as a pandemic disaster.

During the week, Major General Mathieu Boni, Benin’s Chief of Defense, invited us to view the flooded areas of Cotonou. The 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. 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.

My heartfelt thanks to the Government of Benin, Benin Armed Forces, our African partners, the US Embassy in Benin, the United States Agency for International Development-Mission in Benin, our staff at US Africa Command and the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine for working together to coordinate and organize this important partnering event.

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