Nicole Dalrymple, U.S. Africa Command, Public Affairs Office wrote:
I am in Senegal attending the weeklong Senegalese National Government Pandemic Disaster Response Tabletop Exercise . A unique aspect of this trip to Senegal has been the opportunity to visit three Senegalese cities – Dakar, Saly and Thies. Quite often our trips to Africa take us to the capital cities but not always beyond the city limits. It has been nice to get out and see other parts of the country.
This exercise is being hosted by the Senegalese government, organized by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and supported by the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The tabletop exercise will assist the Senegalese government in assessing their pandemic influenza and also identify and validate how the Senegalese Armed Forces can assist in Senegal’s National Pandemic Response Plan.
The first day-and-a-half was comprised of speakers and panel discussions, commonly called the academics portion, all intended to help lay a foundation for the tabletop portion of the exercise. Speakers included guests from Kenya and Uganda, who have themselves been through this process and are serving as facilitators during the exercise.
Retired Colonel Vincent Anami, the director of Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Center, spoke about taking a whole of society approach to pandemic preparedness and that a pandemic is not just a health concern. Major General F. Oketta, disaster manager for the Ugandan Ministry of Defense, spoke about the potential role of the military in a pandemic. Pamela Komujuni, disaster manager in the Office of the Ugandan Prime Minister, spoke about the importance of protecting first responders during a pandemic or other disaster response.
The afternoon of July 26, participants were divided into five groups – operations, health, logistics, safety and communications – and the five-session exercise began with the explanation of the emerging crisis. This is a simulated exercise so nothing is real but the exercise planners ensure the scenarios are realistic and accurately reflect a worse-case scenario for a pandemic outbreak.
In session one there are reports and confirmed cases that a new pandemic virus has been recorded in Asia. It is currently outside of Senegal and Africa but it is only time before confirmed ‘cases’ will be recorded in Senegal.
During the exercise the five groups coordinate and work together to outline how the government would respond if this were a real-world situation and the exercise planners inject throughout with new problems and requests for information from high level government officials, international organizations and the media. This is all building to a worst case scenario so by July 28 the situation will be complex and direr.
The Senegalese participants who will be tackling the escalating emergency have diverse backgrounds. The Ministries of Communication, Education, Interior and Health are represented, along with the Senegalese Armed Forces, civil society partners, such as the Senegalese Red Cross/Red Crescent, and international participants from groups such as the World Health Organization, World Food Program, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Discussions during session one were lively and participants were very engaged. In fact, even after session one had technically concluded, many of the groups remained seated and continued their discussions. It should definitely be an interesting next few days.
For a video of this event go to: Senegalese Tabletop Conference
Pictures can be viewed at: Senegalese Tabletop Conference Pictures
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