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Practicing pandemic response in Zambia

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  • Practicing pandemic response in Zambia

    Practicing pandemic response in Zambia
    Source: Logistics Cluster

    Date: 07 Dec 2009

    Focus on

    The Government of Zambia Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU, Office of the Vice President) invited 40 representatives from government departments, local authorities, the Centre for Disease Control, WFP and OCHA to participate in a three-day simulation exercise for responding to a situation of severe pandemic.

    The exercise from 16-19 November 2009 in Lusaka aimed at strengthening pandemic response and coordination capacities among the government, commercial operational partners and humanitarian agencies.

    WFP was invited to provide logistical expertise and specifically to steer the logistics aspects of the simulated emergency response. WFP Logistics Development Unit built the training together with the WFP country office and Pandemic Response Unit. Alastair Cook from the Global Logistics Cluster Support Cell was one of the facilitators: "The exercise was a great success and it was clear for all that maintaining logistics operations during a severe pandemic presents many challenges particularly for effective coordination across the whole of society."

    Day One consisted of a full classroom session on pandemic influenza and an update on H1N1, with medical guidance from the Centre for Disease Control. Training included an overview of the influenza virus, appropriate home care measures with indications for outside medical intervention and protective health measures.

    Day Two was a Theoretical Simulation Exercise challenging participants to formulate actions and responses using their knowledge gained from the previous day.

    Day Three involved a series of field simulation exercises at Lusaka International Airport, warehouses outside the city and a cross-border situation within the scenario of a the outbreak of a severe pandemic.

    Team A was based at Lusaka International Airport - participants were required to contact airport authorities, Immigration and Customs, the DMMU and relevant ministries in order to clear a consignment of cargo and transport it to the main warehouse. This was an on-site real-time simulation in which a Zambian Air Force aircraft landed at Lusaka Airport with a load of cargo to be cleared through customs and loaded onto a truck for transportation to a central warehouse. All those involved used protective clothing and equipment which attracted widespread attention from not only the local airport staff but also the passengers of a Kenyan Airways aircraft that landed and disembarked during the exercise. This caused considerable anxiety among many of the passengers as they felt that there had been an outbreak of an infectious disease, in fact one passenger was reluctant to disembark until he was informed that it was a simulation exercise and had nothing to fear!

    Team B were stationed at a warehouse on the outskirts of Lusaka and participants were required to organise the shipment of cargo that arrived on two trucks, one carrying food commodities and the other medical supplies. The warehouse was secured by the Zambian Military and the Ministry of Health managed a screening post for all personnel entering and leaving the facility. Both trucks needed to enter the premises and comply with standard procedures during a pandemic. The trucks also needed to be disinfected before they could proceed to the point of off-loading. The trucks were supplied by a local transporter that WFP use to move food from the Port of Beira in Mozambique. Team B undertook this task with ruthless efficiency, even to the point of using their decontaminating spray packs on the inside of the drivers cab which caused some consternation from the driver!

    Team C conducted a cross-border operation for the movement of cargo involving border blockages, coordination with the Zambian Air Force for helicopter support, transporters with limited assets and personnel, all during a highly insecure and fluid environment. The actors played their parts with extraordinary skill and the participants were seriously challenged to coordinate the whole exercise while at all times remaining calm and professional.

    Wrap-up: The exercise confirmed that effective coordination across all sectors of society (government, business and civil sectors) and at the national and community level is critical in responding to a severe pandemic. Sectors and agencies which would be likely to be involved should be identified and encouraged to develop their own specific plans within the framework of a national plan. It is important that all sectors and agencies come together regularly to train and to validate their plans. Critical government ministries/agencies must be involved.

    The importance of security to the successful response to a severe pandemic was emphasized. Providing adequate security could be a significant challenge, owing to the likelihood of degraded response capacity brought about by the pandemic (e.g. high rates of absenteeism). Security is particularly important with respect to; transportation of critical supplies, food storage and supply areas, including mobile storage facilities, key infrastructure e.g. fuel depots and fuel supply and distribution, border entry points and refugee camps.

    Participants / Observers: A total of 24 players and 16 observers participated in the exercise from the following organisations; The Zambian Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Communications and Transport, Ministry of Education, Zambia Revenue Authority, Zambia Air Force, National Airports Corporation, Department of Civil Aviation, Food Reserve Agency, Lusaka City Council, Zambia Meteorological Department, Lusaka Urban District Health Management Team, WFP, OCHA and the Center for Disease Control.

    by Alastair Cook, Global Logistics Cluster Support Cell, Rome, 3rd December 2009

    Background to WFP's involvement in Pandemic Preparedness

    In June 2009, WFP conducted the Humanitarian Pandemic Operations Consultation (HPOC). The consultation, which commenced with a high-level dialogue between WFP and WHO, resulted in the development of practical logistics guidance and tools for operations based on recommendations made as a follow-up technical consultation to the Pandemic Logistics Learning Exercise (P2LX), held in Malaysia in 2008. Participants from the Logistics Cluster Support Cell, together with UNHCR, NGOs, IFRC and others, applied experiences gained from the P2LX to provide a template for plans of action for operations in a pandemic environment. Thematic areas addressed include Logistics, Procurement, Health and Safety, Security and ICT. WFP has identified four major considerations that need to be strengthened to maintain operations under pandemic conditions: the free movement of humanitarian supplies, pre-positioning of commodities, national action plans, and the protection of staff.
    Twitter: @RonanKelly13
    The views expressed are mine alone and do not represent the views of my employer or any other person or organization.