Seventeen African Countries Conducting Exercise to Test Readiness of Public Health Emergency Operations Centres

BRAZZAVILLE, December 4, 2019 – On 4 and 5 December 2019, 17 African countries will respond to an outbreak of a potentially deadly communicable disease as part of a simulation exercise being conducted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Africa Health Organization.

This simulation exercise will be run from WHO African Region headquarters in Brazzaville and will consist of an “event” in a fictitious country in Eastern Africa. The event will involve a potentially deadly communicable disease which will later be revealed to be Ebola, with a spread of the outbreak to other countries in the region.

The circumstances of the simulation will require activation of the national Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC) and the involvement of all partners in designing and implementing a rapid response to the simulated crisis. The actual tools, technologies and procedures available for public health emergencies will be used, although there will be no actual deployment of human resources or materiel.

The purpose of the exercise is to test the capacities and level of readiness of the PHEOC of the participating countries as well as communication and information sharing between PHEOCs. The aims of the exercise include: testing the existence of the legal authority needed for the PHEOC to operate; testing existing plans and procedures for operations including the implementation of Incident Management System (IMS); define linkages with national emergency management authorities; and test communication and information-sharing capabilities between PHEOCs in the region . The exercise will help in identifying areas of strength to be built upon and opportunities for improvement. After the exercise, an action plan will be developed to address the gaps identified.

The two-day exercise will be followed by a regional-level debriefing session and a post-exercise report on each country’s PHEOC readiness and capabilities.

PHEOCs are hubs within each country that bring together all stakeholders involved in public health emergencies. Their role is to develop plans, procedures, human resources, information systems and telecommunications in readiness for potential public health emergencies. To date, 26 Member States in the WHO African Region have established PHEOCs, of which 15 are fully functional.

The countries participating in this two-day exercise are Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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