Scenario based Testing of Processes for Importation of Humanitarian Aid in Response to Natural Disasters and Health Crises - Madagascar

Lead PI: Jeffrey Schlegelmilch

Unit Affiliation: National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP)

December 2021 - December 2022
Africa ; Madagascar
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: I. Background

The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the globe, prompting some of the most widespread changes to life and the economy in modern history. With the growing number of approved vaccines available, along with other medical countermeasures, the global distribution of vaccines is becoming increasingly important towards the goals of protecting lives and restoring pre-pandemic economic activity. Because of the global nature of the pandemic, and the existing and pandemic-specific regulations related to cross-border trade, it is critical that plans for rapid distribution be tested through simulations to ensure optimal implementation for vaccine distribution and clearance through various national and international processes.

The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (GAFTF) is working with international institutions and nations in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region to prepare for the importation of COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical equipment.

The National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute has been at the forefront of COVID-19 analysis and organizational response support since the start of the pandemic. Leveraging a team of practitioners and scientists, the team has developed tools for integrating an imperfect and evolving evidence-based with operational requirements for government and the private sector partners. This also includes conducting scenario-based discussion to support concurrent pandemic response evaluation and recommendations for improvement. Additionally, NCDP has led tabletop and other discussion and operations-based exercises to test emergency response plans and to provide recommendations for improvement in multi-sectoral contexts.

In support of GAFTF’s objectives to test plans to facilitate the movement of COVID-19 vaccine and essential medical supplies in the ASEAN region, NCDP proposes the following tabletop exercise project, expected to commence on or near April 1, 2021 and to last for three months, through June 30, 2021.

II. Approach

NCDP proposes utilizing a standardized approach to developing the tabletop exercise, that includes a blended approach of expertise from the NCDP team combined with key stakeholders from the ASEAN region and the GAFTF team to develop the exercise to optimally test the desired objectives related to the import of COVID-19 vaccines and critical medical supplies.

NCDP also recognizes the desire for GAFTF to be able to replicate the process of conducting these exercises and build greater internal organizational capabilities and capacities for this work. NCDP, as part of the exercise the planning and implementation process, will work with GAFTF staff to mentor them on meeting structure, documentation requirements and other resources to help ensure increasing expertise and autonomy for GAFTF staff to design, conduct and evaluate similar exercises in the future.

A. Exercise Design (2 months)

For the tabletop exercise, NCDP will work with GAFTF to convene an exercise planning team that includes representatives from GAFTF and select ASEAN stakeholders. The NCDP team will include experts in exercise design and evaluation, COVID-19 vaccine, critical medical supplies, and humanitarian assistance logistics across borders (including in the ASEAN region), and will be complemented by experts working on regional and national plans specific to the import of these essential commodities into countries in the region.

The exercise will be designed to discuss the processes and potential challenges associated with the importing of COVID-19 vaccine and critical medical supplies into nations in the ASEAN region. Based on the input of the exercise design team and the development process, the exercise may use one scenario to test in multiple settings, or select multiple disaster scenarios with various nuances designed to stress current plans and planning assumptions. The exercise will be planned over the course of 2 months. NCDP will manage the exercise process, prepare and facilitate exercise planning meetings, and provide all exercise documentation (including participant guides, presentations and evaluation tools).