Regional approach to building operational level capacity for disaster planning: the case of the Eastern Africa region

W Bazeyo, R W Mayega, G C Orach, J Kiguli, S Mamuya, J S Tabu, L Sena, E Rugigana, M Mapatano, D Lewy, N Mock, G Burnham, M Keim, J Killewo
East African Journal of Public Health 2013, 10 (2): 447-58

BACKGROUND: The Eastern Africa region is regularly affected by a variety of disasters ranging from drought, to human conflict and population displacement. The magnitude of emergencies and response capacities is similar across the region. In order to strengthen public health disaster management capacities at the operational level in six countries of the Eastern Africa region, the USAID-funded leadership project worked through the HEALTH Alliance, a network of seven schools of public health from six countries in the region to train district-level teams.

OBJECTIVES: To develop a sustainable regional approach to building operational level capacity for disaster planning.

METHODS: This project was implemented through a higher education leadership initiative. Project activities were spear-headed by a network of Deans and Directors of public health schools within local universities in the Eastern Africa region. The leadership team envisioned a district-oriented systems change strategy. Pre-service and in-service curricula were developed regionally and district teams were formed to attend short training courses. Project activities began with a situational analysis of the disaster management capacity at national and operational levels. The next steps were chronologically the formation of country training teams and training of trainers, the development of a regional disaster management training curriculum and training materials, the cascading of training activities in the region, and the incorporation of emerging issues into the training curriculum. An evaluation model included the analysis of preparedness impact of the training program.

RESULTS: The output from the district teams was the creation of individual district-level disaster plans and their implementation. This 4-year project focused on building operational level public health emergency response capacity, which had not previously been part of any national program. Use of the all-hazard approach rather than a scenario-based contingency planning led to the development of a standardized curriculum for training both in-service and pre-service personnel. Materials developed during the implementation phases of the project have been incorporated into public health graduate curricula in the seven schools. This systems-based strategy resulted in demonstrable outcomes related to district preparedness and university engagement in disaster management.

CONCLUSION: University partnerships are an effective method to build district-level disaster planning capacity. Use of a regional network created a standardized approach across six countries.

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