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FAO successfully pilots an animal health emergency operations manual in Cameroon

10/11/2021

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) supported Cameroon’s Veterinary Services in building their capacity to better prepare for animal health emergencies by adapting a global animal health emergencies operations management manual to the specificities of the Cameroon context. This led to the issuance of a decree for the establishment of a national Disaster Management Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in the country.

In 2021, the FAO Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) revised the guide aimed at preparing for animal health emergencies and produced the Good Emergency Management Practices (GEMP): the Essentials, or ‘GEMP guide’. Following this, EMC-AH developed an additional tool which mirrored the terms and approaches presented in the GEMP Guide – the Animal health emergency operations management manual. This manual, developed with guidance from a working group comprised of a variety of experts, is designed for countries to prepare and manage operations during an animal health emergency, and was developed under an FAO project titled ‘Development and Piloting of an Animal Health Emergency Operations Centre Framework’, sponsored by the United States Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)*. 

The Animal health emergency operations management manual describes in a step-by-step approach how users can develop the required capacities during “peacetime”, including personnel and partnerships, physical structures and supportive legal frameworks, and outlines how to maintain them in the absence of such emergencies. 

Once capacities are established and maintained, the manual describes how they can be activated during the “alert phase” and the “emergency phase”, phases that are outlined in the GEMP Guide.

 

The four phases of the emergency management cycle, as outlined in the GEMP Guide, 2021.

 

The manual is global, in the sense that it provides many examples from various regions, and makes reference to other guides, as well as well-established and tested national emergency management structures. However, the objective of the manual is not only to provide generic guidance but to facilitate its application within a national context for the management of animal health emergency operations at country level.

Under the abovementioned DTRA-funded project, the Directorate of Veterinary Services of the Republic of Cameroon was selected as a partner to pilot the adaptation of the manual to local conditions. As such, in October 2020, Cameroon participated in a global tabletop simulation exercise led by the EMC-AH team in French, English and Spanish, in which 10 countries from various regions participated and during which the generic manual was tested in a scenario of an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). This simulation exercise deepened the interest of the Veterinary Services in Cameroon to adapt the manual to their national context.

In order to do so, the Cameroon Veterinary Services appointed a working group of experts to develop a national version of the manual. Over two workshops held in December 2020 and April 2021, the working group adapted the manual to the Cameroon context to produce the Manuel pour la gestion des operations lors d’une urgence zoosanitaire au Cameroun (Manual for the management of operations during an animal health emergency in Cameroon). This process involved the engagement of not only the Veterinary Services but of many partners from the Cameroon One Health platform, who took into account all aspects of animal health emergency management, including the One Health approach with the involvement of both public health and environment sectors.

Following several rounds of review, a final draft of the Cameroon version of the manual was officially transmitted to the national Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries (MINEPIA).

In parallel to the adaptation of the manual, an action that highlighted the importance of preparing for animal health emergencies, a decree was drafted in Cameroon for the establishment of a national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to support the work of Veterinary Services. This decree will now pass through the appropriate Government channels and will set the stage for the establishment of a physical structures required by the Veterinary Services to host a unit specialized in emergency operations, therefore further enabling the management of animal health emergencies at country level.

In September 2021, the Cameroon version of the manual was tested in a national tabletop simulation exercise attended by members of the Veterinary Services from all regions of the country and partners from the One Health platform. A scenario of an outbreak of African swine fever was chosen for this exercise, which was supported by MINEPIA and FAO Cameroon, as well as by EMC-AH colleagues (remotely). The simulation exercise was combined with a training in the use of an FAO EMC-AH self-assessment preparedness tool, the Progressive Pathway for Emergency Preparedness (PPEP).

 

Participants gather for a national Tabletop Exercise in Cameroon to test the customized manual by using a real-life scenario of an animal disease threat to the country.  ©FAO.

 

With these outputs of EMC-AH’s engagement with the Cameroon Veterinary Services, a milestone in the advancement of capacity building of animal health emergency management in Central Africa has been reached. This is of utter importance, as strengthening veterinary services in emergency management will increase the efficacy of any One Health initiatives.

Given the increase in the occurrence of regional health security emergencies, such as the recent widespread outbreaks of HPAI in several countries in West Africa, the experience gained by Cameroon may also be used in the regional context and is set to become a source of knowledge and recommendations.

*The content of the information does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Federal Government of the United States, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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