THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 29 October 2018 – Medical professionals from eleven African Member States of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) upgraded their skills in the medical management of chemical casualties during a training course held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 15-19 October.
In his opening speech, Principal Secretary of Kenya’s State Department of the Interior, Dr Eng. Karanja Kibicho, expressed hope that such capacity building exercises will advance the region’s capabilities to respond to contemporary chemical threats. “Africa must prepare to react and counter threats and vulnerabilities related to the increased use of chemicals in industry and agriculture. Training programmes such as this are valuable instruments in sharing ideas and best practices to build strong networks prepared to respond to major incidents,” he stated.
The practical part of the course took place in the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and included a drill on medical response to a chemical terrorism incident. Several other institutions were involved in conducting the practical exercise, including the Kenyan Ministry of Health, the Red Cross, local ambulance, fire and rescue and police units.
The 25 participants learned about the types and health effects of different chemical warfare agents and other toxic chemicals. They also studied the use of individual protection equipment, as well as medical countermeasures including treatment allocation, hospital care for chemical casualties, and responses to large-scale incidents.
The training was concluded with a table top exercise on emergency medical response to a chemical incident.
The course, organised by the OPCW and the Government of Kenya, was part of the OPCW’s Africa Programme, designed to build capacity and further the implementation of Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention which covers assistance and protection against chemical weapons.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.