By Cheruto Valentine

The Chief guests at the opening ceremony of the workshop
Credit: Deutsche Post DHL

A four day disaster preparedness workshop called Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) is being held at the Toamasina International Airport in Madagascar. The workshop, which began on May 20th, is a program which aims to better prepare airports to handle the sudden surge of incoming relief goods, should a major natural disaster strike.

This program was developed by German multinational mail and logistics company, Deutsche Post DHL Group, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) country office and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The three teamed up with National Bureau for Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC) and Toamasina International Airport.

According to Ms. Marie Dimond, UNDP Resident Representative for Madagascar, preparedness measures to respond to disasters must improve airports readiness to manage emergency humanitarian assistance, even in the worst chaotic scenarios.

“Only in this way humanitarian workers could properly do their work, and the country will be able to save as many lives as possible and allow aviation to meet humanity’s and sustainable development goals.” she added.

This workshop was much needed in Madagascar owing to the fact that the country is prone to natural disasters; particularly to cyclones. It has therefore become a necessity to improve the capacity international airports of the country, especially after the experience learnt during the aftermath of tropical cyclone Enawo that hit the country in 2017.

“The main expected outcome from this GARD workshop is to be detailed in a disaster preparedness and response plan along with relevant protocols and procedures for these international airports of Madagascar in order to support them become the vital hubs for the entry and exit points through which all relief efforts are undertaken,” explains Colonel ELACK Olivier Andriankaja, the Executive Secretary of BNGRC. “At the same time staff from BNGRC and the authorities at International Airport are trained in the necessary protocols and know-how to swiftly respond and face efficiently in case of dramatic situation and potential

According to Yves Andrianaharison, Country Manager, DHL Madagascar, it is vital to prepare all relevant stakeholders to be able to work hand in hand in this situation and to develop a contingency planning that will respond well to an emergency and its potential humanitarian impact.

“During natural calamities, the Airport becomes the center for international support after a natural disaster has hit. The GARD program is coordinated jointly with the national stakeholders – from airport authorities to emergency services such as the special mobile force, police helicopter squadron as well as the security manager,” she added.

The first GARD ‘pilot’ workshop was held in the Philippines in 2009. Since then, more than 50 airports in 25 countries worldwide have been assessed and received GARD workshops with an attendance of over 1,200 people. These countries include Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Armenia, El Salvador, Panama, Sri Lanka, Macedonia and India.

In February 2016, a GARD workshop was held at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, Mauritius. This was the first and until now, has been the only GARD workshop to be held in Africa.