Public health emergency simulation exercises play a role in identifying the strength and gaps in health system capacities and lay out practical corrective actions needed to develop and implement preparedness and response capacities at national and subnational levels. To this end, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in collaboration with UK Health Security Agency, and the Eastern Central and Southern Africa Health community conducted a public health emergency simulation exercise management training for trainers in Chongwe, Zambia, 18th – 23rd July. The training was aimed at strengthening country’s preparedness to various public health emergencies via testing the all-hazard plans, emergency preparedness and response plans.

In pursuit to strengthening IHR compliance and capacity development for Member States, the IHR strengthening project along with the Africa CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response Division has rolled out the training for different experts working in emergency preparedness and response across ministries and institutes in the Republic of Zambia. This is an initiative to support wider number of Member States in testing of various capacities and plans.

30 Participants’ were trained in identifying the types of exercise to run, how to design, conduct and evaluate exercises, and how to train others on exercise management. The aim of the training was to allow respective countries to build their capacity, be able to identify gaps and challenges in their emergency preparedness and response, and amend them to be better prepared for public health emergencies. Participants were from different sectors with different professional background including Emergency Preparedness and Response Officers, Public Health Emergency Operation Center Personnel, Information and Communication Technology Officers, Surveillance Officers, Laboratory Officers, Environmental Health Officers, Disaster Mitigation and Management Unit Officers, Clinicians, Rapid Response Team Coordinators and Public Health-FETP Officers.

During the 6 days, the participants were engaged in concept note creation for exercises; developing and designing exercises; using tools and documents at hand. As a result, they were able to run their own table-top exercise the last day on a scenario presented.

At the opening of the training, Director General Prof. Roma Chilengi of the Zambian National Public Health Institute noted his appreciation to all involved and the stakeholders that made the training a reality, namely: UK Health Security Agency, Africa Centres for Disease Prevention and Control, Africa CDC and Eastern Central and Southern Africa Health community ECSA.

H.E British High Commissioner Nick Wooley, has solidified the UK’s standing collaboration with Republic of Zambia and Africa CDC as well. This training was a typical example of the collaboration and partnership to develop capacities of various countries in their preparedness and response to different public health emergencies.

By Motuma Guyassa