Viewpoint

Viewpoint

U.S. Africa Command Staff

In a crisis, speed is essential. Whether it is a natural disaster, a disease outbreak or a conflict, security professionals know that if they can reach a problem in its early stages, they have a better chance of controlling it.

Unfortunately, disasters don’t always happen in places that allow for an easy response. Some of Africa’s deadliest crises, including the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016, have begun in countries with limited resources and in remote regions that are difficult to access.

Being prepared for these types of crises requires planning on a national, regional and continental level. It also requires a commitment that lasts longer than the flurry of attention that surrounds an individual event. African security leaders and public health institutions are showing that they’re up to the challenge.

In early 2017, the African Union launched the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention with headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This continental public health agency, the first of its kind, aims to improve Africa’s laboratory networks, its disease surveillance systems, and its planning for epidemics. The Africa CDC is applying the lessons from the Ebola outbreak to make sure the continent is better prepared to face the next health challenge.

Africa’s security sector also is playing a lead role. The AU’s African Standby Force has guidelines for Humanitarian Action and Natural Disaster Support operations that will marshal a wide range of civil and military resources to respond to crises. Additionally, the AU is putting in place mechanisms to solve logistics challenges. Programs to share airlift capacity among countries and pre-position stocks for rapid military deployment will help make sure that forces can respond to crises anywhere and anytime.

Individual countries are leading by example as they find creative ways to use their military resources to respond to natural disasters. In Zambia, for instance, the Air Force is helping to fight an invasion of armyworms that is damaging the country’s crops.

In a rapidly changing world, the only thing that is guaranteed is that man-made and natural crises will continue to threaten the planet. Through training, preparation and partnership, Africa’s military and civilian leaders can lessen the impact of these crises and save lives.

TOP: Internally displaced people fleeing drought-stricken regions get water at a distribution center in Baidoa, west of Mogadishu, Somalia. REUTERS

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