African countries test their capacity to respond to a deadly global flu pandemic

Brazzaville, 4 December 2018 – A simulation of a response to a deadly global flu pandemic involving more than 40 countries, including 10 on the African continent is taking place 4-6 December, 2018. This highly complex exercise is coordinated by the World Health Organization’s Global Emergency Operations Centre (WHO EOC) and by the EOC Network, a  network of health emergency operations centres.

A century ago, a devastating influenza pandemic swept the globe with unimaginable speed, and wiped out at least 50 million people.  The 1918 flu remains one of the deadliest outbreaks on record.

“The threat of a deadly pandemic flu outbreak persists and it is essential that countries in the African region strengthen their capacities to respond by participating in these simulation exercises,” says Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Investing in preparing for the big one now will save many lives in the future.”

This week’s simulation is the first global pandemic response training exercise. The scenario will revolve around an outbreak of influenza with pandemic potential on a fictional island nation, located off the coast of North America. The activities include building surveillance and diagnostic capacities.  The national EOCs of the 14 countries taking part in the exercise will respond to emailed updates and questions from the WHO EOC. The exercise allows participants to test their response plans and capabilities in a realistic but safe environment, and benefit from “experiential learning.” 

There have been numerous flu pandemics in the past century but none as deadly as the 1918 flu outbreak. In Africa, the avian influenza outbreak in 2006 and the “Swine flu” A (H1N1) pandemic in 2009 triggered coordinated regional activities to better prepare for future outbreaks.

Evaluators from Asia, North America, Europe and Africa will assess the participants throughout the exercise, measuring their performance against expected procedures. By identifying areas for improvement, participants will emerge better placed to respond jointly and effectively to a global public health emergency.

Simulation exercises are one of the many ways WHO supports country preparedness for   global health emergencies.

Note to the editors:

The countries participating in the simulation exercise from Africa are the following: Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia

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For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Lianne Gutcher

Email: gutcherl [at] who.int

OKA Sakuya

Communications Manager (a.i)
WHO Regional Office for Africa
Tel: +242 06 508 1009
Email: okas [at] who.int