APORA Strengthens Rapid Response Capabilities through Partnership and Communication

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The African Partner Outbreak Response Alliance concluded its tenth annual conference, focusing on global Rapid Response Teams, on April 13, 2021.

“Rapid response training is a great alignment for our emergency capabilities,” said U.S. Army Col. Jonathan Taylor, command surgeon, U.S. Africa Command. “Infectious disease knows no borders, and this past year has reminded us all of that fact.”

RRTs consist of interdisciplinary medical professionals who are ready to deploy in states of emergency and nonemergency. In the past year, governments implemented the concept to improve public health and deliver aid during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

APORA officials coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control for over a year to develop the three-week event. Speakers and participants explored all phases of RRTs, from planning to real world application.

“The time you’ve given is essential,” said Cote d’Ivoire Brig. Gen. D. N’Dri Athanase YAO, APORA president and Cote d’Ivoire Surgeon General. “When we participate in this training, we know that we have not lost our time because this training is crucial. This training is a success.”

Leaders from 17 African countries, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, U.S. Africa Command and the CDC participated in this year’s conference. This was the second iteration of the conference that occurred in a virtual environment, with an emphasis on the importance of collaboration during the pandemic.

Thirty African nations had at least one COVID-19 vaccine available to their citizens before the first of the virtual sessions on March 30, 2021, and all attendees had the opportunity to share their experience responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The instructors did a great job emphasizing the needs of responders,” said U.S Air Force Col. Anne McCain, AFRICOM Deputy Command Surgeon. “Including their resiliency, their safety, and their health. This is perhaps one of the most difficult factors we have encountered in the COVID-19 pandemic: the need to sustain operations, rather than surge. To stay alert, engaged and motivated despite our fatigue and personal frustrations.”

The 112 participants discussed their unique experiences with mass emergency medical response and collaborated on potential emergency response strategies to implement in the future. The virtual platform allowed for real-time translation into English, French and Portuguese.

In addition to networking APORA offers nations the opportunity to strengthen capabilities through dynamic partnerships, aiming to provide African military medical personnel the essential skills to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging infectious disease on the continent and support civil authority.

APORA started in 2014 in response to the threat of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Twelve countries participated in the first conference to share best practices in identifying and reacting to the outbreak of infectious disease.

With each new member and event, the combined capabilities and interoperability of APORA become more equipped to respond to emergencies in the constantly evolving environment. The next key leader engagement is planned for August 2021.