Towards developing FAO’s guidance on Animal Health Emergency Operations Centres – first milestone achieved

Towards developing FAO’s guidance on Animal Health Emergency Operations Centres – first milestone achieved

14/01/2019

The Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) held its first technical working group meeting to produce a framework for establishing Animal Health Emergency Operations Centres (AH-EOC). A project funded by the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

Held from 18 to 20 December 2018, the three-day meeting was an opportunity for 27 experts from over 10 countries and multiple organizations to come together and share knowledge and expertise to identify how emergency operations centres function and are managed in countries and regions. Once developed, EMC AH will pilot the framework in collaboration with the government of Cameroon.

The participants included country representatives from Australia, Cameroon, Estonia, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Thailand, Uganda and Viet Nam, as well as representatives from the World Organisation for Animal Health, World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States Agency for International Development, United States   Department of Agriculture and FAO.

Berhe Tekola, Director, FAO Animal Production and Health Division, opened the meeting with supporting words from Rosanne Marchesich, Emergency Response and Rehabilitation Team Leader, FAO Emergency and Resilience Division. They thanked participants for attending and highlighted the recently published EMC-AH Strategic Action Plan. Lee Myers, EMC-AH Manager a.i., provided a brief history of the EMC-AH and emphasized that its current focus was on high impact animal diseases. Since the concept of EOC is relatively new, she highlighted the need for guidance in the animal health sector.

Jered Markoff, WHO, presented the Framework for a Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHEOC), published in 2015 and funded by DTRA. He shared lessons learned in its development and implementation – which will be useful as an aid when developing the guide to benefit safeguarding animal production and health, and national assets.

Participants outlined the structures in place to manage animal health and public health emergencies in their country. They deliberated on the purpose of incident coordination and the essential functions of an AH-EOC. They also examined how an EOC differs from an emergency management programme. They discussed how an EOC can be a useful tool in managing emergencies. Members also identified country-specific requirements within various AH-EOC structures and processes able to support emergency management. Groups also reviewed topics such as legal authority and legislation linked to EOC functions.

Participants agreed that the framework for establishing AH-EOC should focus on processes, functions and coordination. In addition, adaptability, scalability and flexibility were recurrent themes over the meeting. They concluded that this work could potentially support animal health authorities during emergency management activities and looked forward to contributing in the upcoming year.