PISA, ITALY –Twenty technical personnel from 20 different relief organizations began the two-week IT Emergency Management Training this week, a course designed to prepare them for leading frontline humanitarian disaster response operations. Funded by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Vodafone Foundation, this is the 10th session of the course bringing the total number of trained personnel to over 200.
Whether people are fleeing conflict and war, floods washing away houses or earthquakes destroying livelihoods, the need for highly qualified humanitarian responders is becoming more urgent by the day. IT responders must be amongst the first to arrive in an emergency to set up the communication networks that are so critical for the coordination of life-saving operations.
“In disaster situations, we rely on IT and telecommunications systems to be able to communicate and coordinate our life-saving operations,” says Martin Kristensson, IT Emergency Coordinator with WFP. “IT responders must be amongst the first to arrive in an emergency to set-up these critical networks. This course helps to prepare IT leaders for future emergencies.”
The IT Emergency Management Training is designed to provide participants with the skills to coordinate a large-scale IT disaster response operation, as well as prepare them for the mental, physical and security challenges often experienced on the frontline. The training includes: IT and telecommunications assessment, legal framework, budgeting and resource mobilisation, security, and on-scene management of medical emergencies.
“Establishing IT services in emergencies is very different from working in a steady-state operation,” says Rami Shakra, a former participant from Save the Children. “You might be using similar equipment, but in emergencies there is significantly more pressure – your colleagues need the services you provide immediately, so that they can save lives. There can also be security threats in the field that you need to know how to cope with.”
Thérèse Lannerno, IT technician at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), remembers missions near the South-Sudan border where the situation became quite tense.
“Knowledge of the UN security and safety organizations and what precautions to take was very useful. I also ended up in a militia attack situation and I was less stressed thanks to the training I got in Pisa.”
The IT Emergency Management Training was conceived and developed through the Vodafone Foundation and WFP global partnership which aimed to establish a pool of capable and qualified IT managers to assist the humanitarian community in saving lives. The first session was held in 2007 and since then 213 IT responders from 36 different humanitarian organizations have completed the course. The IT Emergency Management Training has become the foremost course for humanitarian IT personnel.
“The Vodafone Foundation is committed to the delivery and development of emergency and humanitarian response, which we also deliver through the Foundation’s Instant Network programme,” says Andrew Dunnett, Vodafone Group Director, Sustainability and Vodafone Foundation. “The training WFP provide has strengthened humanitarian IT response capacity and we are proud to have contributed to the development of these frontline responders.”
The IT Emergency Management Training is held at the Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna in Pisa, one of Italy’s leading academic institutions. Participants have travelled from across the globe, including Chad, Kenya, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Panama, to attend this course. Past participants of the IT Emergency Management Training have gone on to lead IT operations in numerous humanitarian emergencies including Haiti, Libya, Mali, South Sudan and Syria.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.
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