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12.12.2008 General News

ECOWAS Emergency Response Team ends training

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The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Emergency Response Team (EERT) on Friday ended a training session in Accra aimed at sharpening their skills to respond promptly to emergencies in the sub-region.

The four-day training programme, which was attended by 13 ECOWAS member states, engaged the participants in a simulation exercise on how to manage situations, draw a contingency plan, launch an appeal to galvanise support and assess cost of emergencies, among others.

The EERT was formed last year to complement efforts of other international actors in providing humanitarian response to victims of conflicts and natural disasters that occurred within the sub-region.

Dr Daniel Eklu, Director, Human and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Secretariat, said the EERT was formed in the wake of conflicts and natural disasters that had hit the sub-region in past years, resulting in the loss of lives, destruction of properties and displacement of many citizens.

He said although conflicts were minimal, natural disasters, especially floods had now become serious threats that needed attention.

Dr Eklu said having a sub-regional civilian humanitarian emergency response capacity that would create a sense of ownership and responsibility was therefore crucial to protect and secure lives and properties.

The training, he said, was among other initiatives to develop the capacity of the EERT to provide first line humanitarian response to victims.

He urged the participants to put the knowledge acquired to good use, saying "Our collective efforts to develop a functional EERT can bear positive fruits only when we show commitment to its cause."

Dr Eklu thanked the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Japanese government and development partners for their technical and financial support to the Team.

In a speech read for him, Dr Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Minister of the Interior, called for international cooperation as an effective way to tackle the rising incidence of emergencies mainly brought about by global warming.

He noted that emergency response involved a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary action, which required active participation and cooperation of all stakeholders as well as judicious use of resources to achieve the desired impact.

The Minister said even though occurrence of natural disasters such as earthquakes and windstorms were inevitable, the society could act to prevent their disastrous effects on vulnerable communities and environment by responding appropriately when they occurred.

"It is in the light of this that we see the ECOWAS Commission's strategy to develop an appropriate emergency response mechanism for the sub-region as a welcome one."

He said preparedness towards emergency must therefore be considered as the foundation upon which to build the resilience of communities to disasters. The Minister further expressed the hope that ideas shared at the training programme would serve as a guide to all actors in disaster prevention in the sub-region

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