x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Training to teach others how to save lives

Eighteen Emiratis are taking part in the nine-day Sphere Project workshop, which will teach them how to best respond to emergencies or disasters.

Participants attend a Sphere Project disaster-response training session in Abu Dhabi.
Participants attend a Sphere Project disaster-response training session in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // A workshop in the capital is training professionals to teach others how to best respond to emergencies or disasters, no matter where or when they might occur.

Eighteen UAE nationals are taking part in the nine-day Sphere Project workshop at Al Raha Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

The sessions, which end on Monday, were organised by the UAE Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA).

"This particular programme is for Emirati trainers who will be in a position to continue traning the next generation of aid workers," said Martin Barber, a senior advisor at the OCFA.

"This initiative came about because of the enthusiastic demand of the participants and the desire of the UAE donor organisations to be up to date on the latest techniques of delivering humanitarian aid and management."

The Sphere Project was launched in 1997 by a group of humanitarian non-governmental organisations, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent, to codify and standardise disaster-response methods.

"A number of the participants have gone abroad on such missions, so they are very engaged and enthusiastic," said a workshop trainer, Moustafa Osman, who is a lecturer in disaster management at Birmingham University and an independent consultant to the UN and other humanitarian agencies.

"I like to put extra emphasis on emergency preparedness to avoid doing harm ... we cannot afford to keep taking action on an adhoc basis; we need more professionalism," explained Mr Osman. "Sometimes people think they are doing the right thing during a disaster, but they may be doing more harm by, for example, bringing unwanted food items along."

At the end of the workshop, participants should be able to design and conduct training sessions and be fully aware of the minimum technical standards involved in humanitarian missions.

"We focus on capacity-building and train aid workers to improve quality and accountability by highlighting all the skills that are relevant to disaster management and humanitarian law, such as negotiation," said Mr Osman.

To help ensure that participants have a practical knowledge of the content taught in the workshop, the training is divided into three parts: education, consolidation and application.

Shaikha al Neaimi, who works with the Critical National Infrastructure Authority in Abu Dhabi, says she has benefitted greatly from the practical nature of the course.

"Part of humanitarian aid work is preparedness, because you do not know when an incident will occur, and you have to be able to protect people as well as gather support," she said. "It is an extremely useful subject, because it touches on a lot of practical aspects. We are learning the minimum standards required in disaster management, and that means assessing so many detailed variables and measurements, like how much food and water are needed."

Ms al Neaimi believes that this type of training is useful for both men and women, who are able to bring different insights to emergency and disaster situations.

"I am glad that the UAE has taken this route, and we hope to see many more following suit in the future," said Mr Osman.

balqabbani@thenational.ae