U.S. Overseas Disaster Outreach Covers Military, Civilian Flanks
NAIROBI, Kenya, August 22, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. military and diplomatic officials from 11 East African countries opened a new regional disaster response center for East Africa last week in Nairobi that will respond to both natural disasters and terrorist attacks. At the same time, though not at the same place, civilian agencies began implementing the U.S. government's Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System program in response to the December 2004 tsunami disaster.
Outfitted with more than $400,000 worth of state-of-the-art communications gear, the Nairobi center was officially opened on Wednesday by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.
The opening was part of a meeting that took place all last week in the Kenyan capital between representatives of the U.S. military and 11 African nations, a partnership called Golden Spear.
Since July 2000, top-ranking military and civilian representatives from Africa and America have met annually to discuss cooperative measures to battle disasters like floods, drought and famine through the Golden Spear project.
The 11 participating African nations are Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda.
Ambassador Bellamy said the Golden Spear partnership was meant "to better integrate African nations to deal with disaster management, whether those disasters are natural or man-made."
The reference to "man-made" disasters highlights a new phase of the partnership, which emphasizes cooperation on counterterrorism.
"Africa has had more than its share of disasters," said Bellamy. "Whether they are of the natural kind, like the tsunami … or of the man-made kind … [like] the 1998 bombings of the American embassies here in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, they cost lives and disrupt our economies."
Bellamy said, "The United States government, through its military, has laid the foundation for Golden Spear and we will continue to be a dependable and strong partner, as our African partners work with each other to become better integrated in their disaster preparedness."
The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami affected two of the Golden Spear partner countries. The giant wave struck the Seychelles, where three people were killed, and seven people are missing and presumed dead. A major bridge was destroyed in the giant wave. In Kenya, one person was drowned.
The multilateral effort is funded and coordinated through the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), responsible for military partnerships with Horn of Africa nations, and the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), responsible for sub-Saharan Africa.
The Department of State and the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) based in Washington, DC also participate in the Golden Spear operation.
Retired Marine General Karl Fulford, a former deputy EUCOM commander who now directs ACSS, joined other military and civilian officials at the Golden Spear symposium in Nairobi to discuss disaster response procedures, port-security operations and training opportunities.
Military officers from CENTCOM and EUCOM and African defense ministers were also briefed on the results of a medical surveillance seminar held at the conference and later participated in a table-top exercise acting out a crisis scenario.
On Thursday, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the launch of the U.S. government's Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System program in response to the December 2004 tsunami disaster.
The two year, $16.6 million effort will contribute to the development of integrated early warning and mitigation systems that will let countries in the Indian Ocean region detect and prepare for tsunamis and other coastal hazards.
“This is one of our top priorities in Asia, and an important part of the U.S. post-tsunami reconstruction effort,” said Tim Beans, mission director for USAID's Regional Development Mission Asia, which will lead the effort.
The program involves several U.S. agencies, each contributing specialized expertise in tsunami warning and disaster management, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the U.S. Forest Service.
The program will work in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. The IOC has lead responsibility for the multinational effort to develop the Indian Ocean's regional warning capabilities.
U.S. technical assistance will support efforts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives – the countries most severely affected by the December 2004 disaster in which more than 250,000 people died.
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