The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa was the largest global public health crisis in recent history, with over 8,000 cases confirmed in Sierra Leone alone. EVD had a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, claiming the lives of almost 4,000 people and causing widespread socio-economic disruption. In order to contribute toward preventing future outbreaks and to strengthen the ability of Sierra Leone to effectively respond to crises, WFP is supporting national disaster management authorities to develop their capabilities in emergency preparedness and response.
Since being declared free from Ebola by the World Health Organisation on 17th March 2016, the responsibility for coordinating responses to national emergencies has been transferred from the interim National Ebola Response Center (NERC) to the Office of National Security (ONS). To augment national capabilities to prepare for and respond to future emergencies, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started to carry out a series of trainings to build the capacity of ONS, supporting Government ministries and development partner staff. WFP will also work in direct partnership with communities to enhance preparedness to flooding and other environmental shocks.
The first of a series of trainings took place between 18th and 21st April 2016 in WFP’s purpose built training facility at the Main Logistics Base (MLB) in Port Loko. The training, which was facilitated by WFP staff, combined classroom lessons, hands-on exercises and practical simulations on supply chain, logistics planning and assessment, sea and port operations, engineering services, emergency ICT and telecommunications provision and humanitarian air services. The training was attended by ONS and UNICEF staff.
“A good disaster response is delivered swiftly, effectively, at the right place, at the right time. Effective response is grounded in thorough preparedness, careful planning and identification of teams and partners together with delivery mechanisms and supplies. WFP’s Port Loko MLB reduces expensive air-lifting of assets, cuts down on procurement processes and also, most importantly, familiarizes in country response teams with equipment. Closely partnering with disaster management authorities in these areas is a step in the right direction,”
said Peter Scott-Bowden, WFP Sierra Leone’s Representative and Country Director.
As the lead for the Support Services Pillar under the UN ‘No Regrets’ approach, WFP continues to provide logistics support managed from the Port Loko MLB which has a storage capacity of over 19,000m³. WFP maintains the ability to respond to future EVD outbreaks with prepositioned rapid response modules which are stored at the MLB.
These modules contain ICT equipment, mobile storage units and office prefabs, generators and ablution units to enable WFP and its partners to establish emergency operations centres for frontline staff coordinating a response within 96 hours of notification. Maintaining this lean, rapid response capacity is essential to ensure that Sierra Leone can sustain a “resilient zero” of Ebola cases. This will also confirm that the country’s Ebola Recovery Strategy can be effectively implemented to support socio-economic recovery.
“This training is well orchestrated to suit the interest and needs of the Office of National Security to enhance the soft skills of the institution to be in the driving seat to effectively respond to future emergencies,” said John Rogers, Director of Office of National Security. Special Operations activities, including trainings of emergency partners, are funded by Finland, United Kingdom, USA, Switzerland and Norway.