Botswana Emergency Management Development Provides Opportunity for Regional Exchange

Carrie Carnevale | March 2018

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National public health institutes can provide essential management coordination of key public health services that have a real impact on the health of a country. NPHIs exist to improve the physical, mental and social well-being of communities. Currently, the Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) is in the process of establishing the Botswana Public Health Institute (BPHI), which will feature Public Health Emergency Management (PHEM) as a core public health component among others and which will house the country’s national-level Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC). In 2017, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported a cross-border exchange between Botswana and Zambia, when the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) hosted a PHEM training in conjunction with CDC experts.

ZNPHI is further along in some aspects of NPHI development than BPHI, particularly in the development of the NPHI PHEM functions. Thus, the three-day training and exercise provided a valuable, first-hand opportunity for BPHI to learn from a more established NPHI.

The first two days of the training focused on theoretical situations and principles, and the third day consisted of a group tabletop exercise. For the exercise, participants simulated the NPHI’s ability to respond to a given public health emergency scenario, such as responding to suspect cases of Ebola. During this time, Democratic Republic of Congo, which Zambia shares several border points with, had detected Ebola making the exercise especially timely and relevant.

The training and tabletop exercise were an excellent opportunity for regional NPHIs to share best practices. Under the new Africa CDC regional structure, ZNPHI is also the Africa CDC Regional Collaborating Center for Southern Africa, making the exchange a beneficial opportunity for both countries. Going forward, the institutes will likely be able to exchange lessons and experiences that will be extremely helpful as they navigate different phases of the NPHI creation process. This training was an important first step in opening a line of communication between the two NPHIs for future collaborations and shared experiences for the region.

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