For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is convening a group of civil society organizations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a regional exercise that will kick off the implementation stage of its Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative. The three-day exercise seeks to advance global capacity to thwart a humanitarian disaster in the event of a pandemic.
As recently emphasized by outbreaks of swine flu and H5N1 avian influenza, the likelihood that an emerging infectious disease will spark a global pandemic remains a significant threat. In a pandemic, communities will need access to food, water, and care for both pandemic and non-pandemic illnesses. Through the Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, USAID is working with a group of partners including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, U.N. agencies, host-country governments, and non-governmental organizations to develop comprehensive national plans to help ensure countries can mount an effective humanitarian response to such needs in the event of a pandemic.
With this week's exercise, these plans will be put into action for the first time. An emphasis will be placed on regional coordination and communication within the context of national plans in East Africa. In addition to helping identify gaps and what kinds of challenges may arise in a pandemic, the exercise will also allow participants to learn about cutting-edge resources designed for pandemic response in the region.
Dr. Ronald Waldman, coordinator of the USAID Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative, stressed the importance of pandemic readiness. "We don't know which disease will cause a pandemic, but considering historical evidence and epidemiological data, we know there is a likelihood that one will occur," he said. "Testing and strengthening preparedness plans through exercises like this now will help ensure communities have access to uninterrupted care for pandemic illnesses as well as other diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis that will continue to affect people in the event of a pandemic. This will help reduce excess mortality and mitigate a large-scale humanitarian crisis. The investments we have made thus far are proving beneficial as there is a strong synergy among groups involved in pandemic prevention and preparedness. This will help ensure a sound response to pandemic threats such as swine flu, which is of current concern."
Exercise participants will include organizational leaders from nine countries in East Africa - Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda - who would likely lead emergency response efforts across the region during a pandemic. A review session will be conducted after the exercise in East Africa to allow participants the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and provide feedback on strengthening pandemic preparedness. Following the review, a report will be drafted and will serve as a reference to facilitate the development and strengthening of pandemic plans. USAID plans to host similar exercises in other regions through the Humanitarian Pandemic Preparedness initiative to ensure national plans are sound.
Since 2005, USAID has committed $543 million through its avian and pandemic influenza program to support pandemic prevention and preparedness across the globe. Including distribution of non-medical commodities for disease surveillance and response, this support has reached nearly 100 countries. For more on USAID's avian and pandemic influenza program, please visit http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/home/News/news_items/avian_influenza.html.
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Last updated: June 11, 2014