Public Health Emergency Operations Centres strengthened through training

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 4 July 2019 – In response to the more than 100 public health emergencies that occur in Africa each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners held a ‘train the trainers’ capacity-building workshop in Addis Ababa recently.

The nine-day workshop was designed to create a regional team of experts at Public Health Emergency Operations Centres (PHEOC) who will help with the establishment of new PHEOC as well as strengthen the capacity of WHO Member States to coordinate, prepare for and appropriately respond to public health emergencies.

Participants included 31 PHEOC trainers from 22 Member States of the WHO African Region and the WHO Mediterranean Region. The workshop was organized jointly by WHO, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC).

“PHEOC are designed to enhance preparedness for public health emergencies as well as ensuring the best response. That is why we dealt with leadership, operation, logistics, planning and administration in this training,” said Dr Agerry Bategereza, the interim WHO Ethiopia Representative.

A PHEOC serves as a hub for coordinating preparedness and response to public health emergencies. Currently there are only 14 established in the WHO Africa Region.

“The concept of emergency operation centres is relatively new and because we’re at an infancy stage we need to develop capacity, which is central to efficient functioning of the PHEOC,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director Africa CDC.

“We expect to have a multiplier effect of the tools, skills and knowledge acquired in this training in our countries,” said Dr Virgile Lokossou, the representative from WAHO.

In his message to the participants, Mr Wilton Menchion of the US CDC, said: “You are a part of a transformational history that is occurring right now on this continent and across the globe. You should look at this from a larger global view as we draw down to the technical issues, and be prepared to empower others with the same message.”

Using the standardized modules for PHEOC, participants learned the fundamentals of operating an efficient PHEOC, including the legal and administrative procedures for their establishment, and how to transfer the skills they acquire to others. They also took part in practical sessions on how to conduct and manage public health emergency simulation exercises.

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