Experts from the African Member States of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) enhanced their capabilities in chemical warfare agent and toxic chemical decontamination procedures during an online basic course held from 13 to 15 July. This was the first OPCW training on decontamination for the Organisation’s Member States in Africa.
The training was conducted by the OPCW and the instructors from the Special Risks Brigade of the Argentine Federal Police, as part of OPCW’s Instructor Development and Exchange Programme.
OPCW’s Special Advisor on Assistance and Protection, Mr Shawn DeCaluwe, remarked: “I welcome the high level of interest from African countries to upgrade their national and regional systems of response to chemical weapons and incidents involving toxic industrial chemicals. Building effective mechanisms and promoting the assistance and protection culture is crucial to achieving the high level of readiness essential for saving lives in emergency situations.”
The Team Leader from the Special Risks Brigade of the Argentine Federal Police, Mr Christian Renoldi, stressed in his opening remarks the importance of knowledge sharing: “This course aims to create a network of best practice amongst chemical emergency first responders and strengthen regional preparedness in the case of chemical attacks.”
The participants enhanced their theoretical knowledge on how to develop and implement decontamination procedures and techniques as well as Hospital Preparedness for Chemical Incidents (HOSPREP) including victim triage systems in the aftermath of incidents involving chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. The first responders also discussed their experiences of chemical decontamination and were provided with an overview of the Chemical Weapons Convention, focusing on Article X on assistance and protection measures necessary to manage incidents directly at the scene.
The course was attended by 61 experts from 19 OPCW Member States: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.
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.
Over 98% of all declared chemical weapon stockpiles have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.