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ECOWAS, UNHCR collaborate to build humanitarian response capacity in West Africa

A group photo of participants at the event
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are collaborating to scale up the level of response to humanitarian and emergency situations in the region.
To this end, a five-Day Emergency Management Training (EMT) Commenced at the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre, (MLAILPKC), Jaji, Kaduna state, Nigeria on the 27th of August 2018, to build the capacity of Member States and officials charged with the provision of response to humanitarian crisis.
As structured, the EMT is meant to equip trainees with multiple skills to prepare for, manage and respond to diverse humanitarian emergencies including the use of simulations around real emergency situations.
Addressing the participants and facilitators at the commencement of the training, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne commended the UNHCR for its excellent partnership with ECOWAS seeing that the combined effects of conflicts and natural disasters “has and continues to have economic impact on the population of the region”.
She clarified that the idea of establishing the ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT) is not meant to replace or duplicate the efforts of the United Nations (UN) and other partners but to complement such while “enhancing a coordinated humanitarian action in the region”
Being an exercise to build and improve the capacity of trainees to prepare for, manage and respond to emergencies in the region, the Commissioner urged participants to be conscious of the seriousness attached to it as the region requires “affective and efficient management of humanitarian emergencies to save the lives and restore dignity to our population”.
“You are encouraged to learn new approaches during this training as you may be called upon for ECOWAS humanitarian Missions in Member States and where the need arises” She added.
The UNHCR’s senior liaison officer to ECOWAS Mr. Roger Hollo underscored the high interest of the UNHCR in partnering with the ECOWAS Commission and its institutions as a mark of solidarity with the regional organization’s efforts at staying on top of emergency situations.
The signing of cooperative agreements with ECOWAS, he explained, brought about meaningful collaborations between the two bodies. In this regard, he noted that the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ECOWAS’ Community Court of Justice represents another step of a joint working together within the spectrum of relations with ECOWAS just as the UNHCR is currently studying the problem of herders-farmers clashes in the region with a view of proffering solutions.
Thanking the training facilitators and other officials, Mr. Hollo was optimistic that the programme will equip the participants with the necessary knowledge to deal with current and futuristic emergency situations in the region.
In his remarks, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to ECOWAS and Chair, ECOWAS Permanent Representatives’ Committee, Ambassador Babatunde Nurudeen said the humanitarian disasters to which the region is exposed, including the consequences of terrorists’ activities and insurgencies, required urgent interventions.
Ambassador Nurudeen commended the ECOWAS Commission’s engagement with the UNHCR particularly the dedication of the Commission to the implementation of the directive of the Council of Ministers with regards to the operationalization of the EERT.
He noted that because Nigeria views the development of capacity in emergency response as crucial factor in addressing humanitarian situations, its government has always responded to the humanitarian needs of its neighbours as demonstrated by its military efforts during the civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the dispatch of hundreds of volunteers to tackle the 2015 outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea having responded successfully to the outbreak in Lagos.
With the sustenance of the required synergies among relevant stakeholders, he expressed hopes for the emergence of a highly professional and ever ready emergency response team for the region even as the EMT takes into account, new threats to peace and security such as terrorism, violent extremism, irregular migration and climate change among others.
Earlier while welcoming participants to the Nigeria Army simulation Centre, the Commandant of the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAIKPC) Major General US Yakubu said the Centre has lived up to expectations having been set up principally for peace support operations. He urged the participants to be focused and ensure that the success of the training programmes is felt in the response to the various emergency situations in the region.
The training which is being held in collaboration with the Nigerian Army has participants drawn from EERT Members from English Speaking ECOWAS Member States as well as staff of both the ECOWAS Commission and UNHCR. (ECOWAS website)

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