The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) has launched the West Africa Disaster Preparedness Initiative (WADPI), in Accra, towards combating disaster outbreaks in the sub-region.
The WADPI training programme, which started on July 13, is being supported by the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) Operation United Assistance (OUA) Disaster Preparedness Project. It would end on November 30.
Ghana and Benin are starting the programme with the rest of the countries taking their turns later.
The opening ceremony was attended by senior officials from the 15 member states, as well as from Chad, Cameroon, and the United States Government.
Major General Obed Boamah Akwa, the Commandant, KAIPTC, in his address said, the programme would in the future become one of the flagship programmes of the Centre in relation to disaster management.
He said the main objective of the training programme was to utilise lessons learnt from the recent Ebola epidemic in the Sub-region and strengthen national capacities of the 17 West and Central African Partner Nations.
Maj. Gen. Akwa said the programme sought to implement an all-hazards approach to disaster preparedness and response management to ensure continued regional collaboration, communication and coordination among member states in disaster preparedness and response.
The Commandant noted that additionally, training efforts would focus on building the capacity of officials responsible for disaster preparedness and management regarding the lessons learned from the current Ebola crisis and to establish a foundation for a national-level, systems-based approach to preparedness.
He said KAIPTC had over the years established itself as a Centre of Excellence for research into various aspects of training in disaster management, integrated peace support operations, and post conflict reconstruction.
Maj. Gen. Akwa said the Centre would, therefore, train people to engage these areas towards the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, and how to help rebuild war-torn and disaster affected states.
Dr Barbara Sotirin, the Deputy Director of Programmes, USAFRICOM, said the US Government was prepared to continue assisting African nations with disaster preparedness and response planning.
She stated:“The future of effective disaster response in West Africa rests on three pillars; enhanced civil-military relationships and inter-ministerial coordination in support of disaster planning and response, strengthened partner nation disaster management capacities and capabilities, and cooperation, coordination and collaboration among the nations both in the region and more broadly on the continent.”
Dr Sotirin described the programme as ‘an important milestone in their work towards their shared goals and objectives in supporting humanitarian and disaster preparedness.’
Mr Fritz Baffour, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and the Interior, said the recent Ebola epidemic in the sub-region had created an awareness that everyone was involved in the fight against disasters.
He said a Bill had been placed before Parliament to transform the National Disaster Management Organisation into a very efficient institution to help combat disasters.
Mr Ahmed Tidiane Traore, the Technical Advisor, Mano River Union, said the Ebola epidemic had crippled the economies of hard-hit Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
He said more than 11,000 lives were lost to Ebola, adding that, the isolation of the three Ebola hard-hit countries by the international community had compounded the problem. GNA