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USDA Forest Service helps train Ethiopian disaster managers in emergency management efforts

ETHIOPIA – Ethiopia’s climate, geography and geopolitical location in the western escarpment of the Great Rift Valley and the Horn of Africa increases its vulnerability to both natural and human-caused disasters including earthquakes, floods, drought, terrorism, seismic events and refugees seeking protection and assistance. The USDA Forest Service works broadly in Ethiopia to build capacity and technical competence in disaster management and recently conducted a natural disaster simulation exercise with Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission to test the use and utilization of Ethiopia’s Emergency Coordination Center at the Commission and its plans/procedures.

NDRMC is responsible for coordinating Ethiopia’s emergency preparedness, response and recovery. During the ECC exercise, 20 emergency response personnel from NDRMC were tasked with performing various duties to coordinate response. The government of Ethiopia’s Disaster Risk Management policy outlines the need for a single coordination point, such as an ECC, to be activated during times of disaster.

This exercise was the latest activity of the USDA Forest Service’s disaster management program in support of and funded by the United States Agency for International Development in Ethiopia. “Over the last few years, we have seen the suffering that natural and man-made disasters can cause for millions of Ethiopian families. Our investments are helping Ethiopia better prepare for and mitigate such events, so that families can get through them in better shape and get on with their lives,” said USAID mission director Leslie Reed. The primary element of the program is to adapt components of the US-based National Incident Management System in Ethiopia’s emergency management processes and procedures. NIMS was developed as a comprehensive national approach to incident management to improve effectiveness, efficiency and coordination of emergency management.  

The USDA Forest Service program offers technical assistance, international exchanges and advising to support Ethiopian counterparts. In addition, since 2017, an embedded Forest Service disaster management advisor has been working with government and non-government partners to increase awareness and engagement of the NIMS system. According to the advisor, “this simulation exercise gave our federal partners the opportunity to practice operating within an ECC without the realism and consequences of actual destruction. The exercise boosts confidence and experience in this system, improving skills and competence for the next real emergency in Ethiopia. The mantra is true: practice makes perfect!”

Ethiopia’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission staff working through exercise in assigned Emergency Coordination Center sections. USDA Forest Service photo.