Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Brussels, HE Samuel Tamba Musa, has had a working engagement with Head of the Emergency Response Coordination Center (ERCC) Antoine Lemasson and the Deputy Team leader, Alfonso Basanta, who was in Freetown to provide coordination support from the delivery of assistance for victims of the fire disaster in Wellington.
During the meeting held at the Center’s office in Brussels Belgium, the three talked extensively about the work of the ERCC in Sierra Leone.
The ERCC operates in the heart of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism with its mandate to coordinate the delivery of assistance to disaster-stricken countries, such as relief items, expert civil protection teams, and specialized equipment.
The center ensures the rapid deployment of emergency support and acts as a coordination hub between all EU Member States and affected countries.
Talking about the ERCC’s role in disaster management, Antione Lemasson explained that they don’t implement the process rather they provide the funding, assess and monitor the operations while the implementation process is done by their partners that are mostly NGOs, UN agencies, and the ICRC.
Citing an example of their work, the Head of the ERCC disclosed that the European Civil Protection Mechanism was immediately activated in the aftermath of the Wellington Tanker explosion in Freetown. The activation was done through a combination of efforts by key players including WHO, the EU delegation in Freetown, and the government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
This system, Lemasson said, is different because provides for a state-to-state support pathway in collaboration with the Commission.
Antione Lemasson explained that the geographical area of ERCC’s activities does not only include Europe but rather falls outside of European territories even though funding for assistance is made by the 27 EU Member States and others associated with the EU.
“Assistance”, he said, “can be done through the provision of the services of professionals like doctors”, again citing the case of Sierra Leone during the tanker explosion disaster when EU member countries decided to help, some providing expert doctors in burns, medical supplies including specialised drugs.
The Head of Unit disclosed, the ERCC will not intervene if there is no formal request made from a state or some other international actors such as governments, NGOs, or UN Agencies and that countries faced with disaster need to make a formal request for the funds or support to be activated.
Explaining the purpose of his visit, Ambassador Musa, thanked the Center for their support during the tanker explosion in Freetown, emphasising that their assistance was of great value.
HE Tamba explained that one of his roles as an Ambassador is to enable the government to be in sync with the operations of organizations like the ERCC and to get feedback to enable him to pursue further engagements.
Ambassador Musa commended the team for their timely intervention during the tanker explosion as they were able to put together a prompt response team comprising of doctors and medical equipment.
He further thanked the various countries for the support they provided to protect and save the lives of the victims.
The Ambassador informed the team about some of the other disasters Sierra Leone had experienced over the years including flooding, mudslide, and epidemics, and wondered if they had to deal with floods, especially in terms of preparedness. In response to the question, Mr. Alfonso Loano Bassanta promised to link the Ambassador with the specialized sector in the EU that deals with floods.
In his presentation, Alfonso Lozano Basanta, deputy Team Lead at the Center disclosed that he was present in Sierra Leone for the Fuel tanker explosion adding that the ERCC was very active in Sierra Leone, during the Ebola outbreak.
He further disclosed that the team went to Sierra Leone as fast as they could and they worked closely with the Minister of Health and the various agencies involved in National Disaster Management. The EU Teams Lead, Alfonso Basanta said they were very impressed by the professionalism of the staff of the Ministry and National Disaster Management center.
At the end of the meeting, Ambassador Musa was taken on a conducted tour of the center and was informed as to how the center operates.