Training individuals and communities to be better prepared for future emergencies, is central to International Medical Corps’ mission. That commitment is just as important for our own staff, to make sure we are always ready to respond as quickly and effectively as possible when lives are at risk in the communities we serve.
UN Logistic Response Team Training, Brindisi, Italy
Three members of International Medical Corps’ global Logistics team were invited to join, as both facilitators and participants, in a week-long simulation training, designed to replicate the challenges and realities of a real, complex humanitarian emergency.
Mohamed, Emilio and Irma made their way to Brindisi in Italy from their current bases in Libya, Croatia and Kenya to join representatives of 23 UN organizations, NGOs and local Italian authorities. From the moment they landed in Italy, the International Medical Corps team were immersed in the humanitarian disaster ‘scenario’.
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake had struck the fictional country of Brinland. Infrastructure including roads, airports, communications and power were damaged or destroyed in one of the poorest and most food insecure regions of the country. The complexity of the situation was further complicated by security concerns as the earthquake struck near a region already prone to armed clashes and instability.
Irma noted “…having personally experienced a complex earthquake emergency, I would say that the simulation of an earthquake in Brinland was just about spot on.’’
The training was designed to replicate the reality of a humanitarian emergency as closely as possible. Therefore the challenges facing the International Medical Corps’ team ranged from the overwhelming, such as how to coordinate the necessary supplies to feed thousands of hungry survivors in a location that could accommodate a helicopter airlift; to the mundane, setting up e-mail accounts, finding desk space and getting used to sleeping in a single shared bedroom with 20 of your new colleagues.
Emilio reflected that, ‘’ the ‘movie’ we were acting in, had the perfect scenario…everything fitted into a perfect picture that felt completely real. Events to react to were rolling in continuously to challenge us, as almost a month of emergency response in Brinland was compressed into a week of real time“. At one point Irma admitted, “I literally lost a day that I had to get confirmation from several people what day it was!”
New challenges thrown their way included a grilling by UN media staff, playing the part of the Brinland Broadcasting Corporation, (a less familiar relative of the BBC!), to teach media skills, a presentation of their budgets to real donors and unannounced ambushes by security staff.
What this means for our future response
This training provided a fantastic opportunity for our Logistics staff to develop their skills and prepare them for the next humanitarian disaster International Medical Corps will respond to. For the whole organisation it has reinforced the importance of coordination and collaboration with other actors in humanitarian responses, particularly through the UN Humanitarian Cluster system. Irma commented, “as the word ‘cluster implies’; team work , collaboration and shared experiences from a variety of individuals and organisations really brought context to this training, and it was crucial for reaching the best decisions.”
“This may have just been a simulation, but these are the challenges that International Medical Corps’ country teams face every day. We were all glad to be going home after seven days, but we know this training could be called upon at anytime, anywhere in the world. It’s a big responsibility for the Logistics team but also for the whole of International Medical Corps to be prepared and vigilant because next time it will be real lives at stake.”