WFP was recently invited to provide logistical expertise at a 3-day pandemic response training in Lusaka, Zambia. Both the Global Logistics Cluster Support Cell and WFP's Logistics Development Unit supported the training. Shortly after the event WFP Zambia's Deputy Country Director, Purnima Kashyap, was traveling on a flight to the capital city of Lusaka when a man collapsed aboard the aircraft. What happened next was a textbook response to what appeared to be a a severe case of H1N1...
Today (Dec 4, 2009) I experienced first hand, the application of the learnings at the H1N1 simulation exercise in Zambia; at Lusaka International airport. A REALTIME testing of the simulation exercise.
I was on the last lap of my return from Rome to Lusaka. At Nairobi I took Kenya Airways flight KQ 722 departing 0825 hrs to Lusaka via Lilongwe (Malawi).
Barely 10 minutes after take off from Lilongwe, when the pilot allowed seat belt opening, I saw a man pass me in the aisle but he was hardly able to put his feet on the ground. I thought something was amiss, so I got up and gave him support and held him up from the back. At the same time I saw a flight attendant come over and hold him from the front. The man just collapsed in our hands. We had empty seats near by and we laid him flat. We loosened his clothes and noted he was breathing very heavily but his eyes were absolutely blanked out. He had fainted. I asked the flight attendant if there was any medical expertise available with the cabin crew - no surprise, answer was "no". We stretched him flat on the seats. At this point, I was not getting any real action from the flight crew, who really did not know what to do. I just decided to walk up and down through the entire aircraft, and called out for any medical professional - doctor or nurse - onboard. We got some help. The passenger was given oxygen and then he began to revive.
Meanwhile, I asked the flight attendant to send a message to ground crew at Lusaka airport to prepare to support a medical emergency case on board and to get the medical team and supplies ready. I was asked to stay on board to provide any information the medical team may require about what happened.
Now for the real action!!
As we landed in Lusaka, to my surprise I saw a team of about 7-10 (cannot recall how many) people rush in to the aircraft - all with masks. There was a doctor who led the team and they came straight to the unwell passenger. First questions asked - have you had any fever in the last few days? Have you been coughing? Did you have a recent cold? Answers to all the questions were negative by the sick passenger. Then she asked some other routine questions - any history of high or low blood pressure? Any history of diabetes? Negative again!
The doctor then turned to me, for me to explain what had happened. I told her the story. The sick person was wheelchaired out of the aircraft and taken for medical assistance.
At this time I decided to have a quick chat with the doctor. She told me they were prepared for an H1N1 case on board as they were informed that there was a "sick person on board with contagious infection". She informed me that they had a quarantine area ready at the airport (although I could not confirm this fact) so I asked her if she had attended the H1N1 simulation exercise and to my absolute joy she said, "YES"! She said she was to pleased to have been a part of it and that they were putting what they had learned into ACTION!
Well done to all those who were involved in the exercise. The model was effectively tested today at Lusaka International Airport.
Deputy Country Director
United Nations World Food Programme