THE HAGUE, Netherlands – 11 August 2023 — In the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack or an incident involving toxic chemicals, it is essential for first responders to have the knowledge and skills necessary to respond to a chemical emergency.
To support the development of these capabilities, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Government of the Republic of Zambia co-organised a training course in Lusaka, Zambia for first responders from English-speaking Member States in Africa. The training took place from 10 to 14 July 2023.
The training course is part of the regional training cycle related to assistance and protection under Article X of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which began with an online introductory course, from 30 March to 30 April 2023, to support participating Member States in building their capacity to manage a chemical emergency in their countries. Delivered by OPCW experts and a team of instructors from Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda through the OPCW’s Instructor Exchange and Development Programme, the course covered theoretical knowledge and hands-on training related to the use of protective equipment as well as the effects and characteristics of chemical warfare agents. Experts also provided instruction on how to conduct detection, sampling, and analysis in contaminated areas, as well as on how to establish an incident command and control system.
In her remarks, Ms Hope Situmbeko, Permanent Secretary for Administration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Zambia, emphasised Zambia’s commitment to provide assistance and protection in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In his keynote address, Mr Norman Chipakupaku, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, stated the need to train first responders to address chemical emergencies quickly and efficiently, given the current international security environment, as well as natural disasters.
The training was attended in person by 34 representatives from 11 OPCW Member States: Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Article X of the Convention provides for assistance and protection to a State Party if it is attacked or threatened with attack by 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 has been the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapon of mass destruction.
All declared chemical weapons stockpiles were destroyed under OPCW verification. The United States was the last possessor State and completed the destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile on 7 July 2023. The OPCW observed the destruction of the chemical weapons stockpiles declared by all State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention and confirmed on 7 July 2023 that all declared chemical weapons stockpiles were verified as irreversibly destroyed.
For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.