Ebola: proper soldiering for NATO?

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“At a time when questionable missions are being contemplated to address threats from the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East, NATO boots on the ground to fight infectious disease seems like a more urgent and appropriate response for a military-political Alliance”. Read more on the NATO Watch website.

Proper Soldiering3The late Michael Harbottle (former chief of UN Peacekeeping in Cyprus) pointed out the advantages of using military skills and equipment in What is Proper Soldiering? p15:

In many cases it has been all the armed forces, naval, army and air force, which have played important roles in the early phases of life saving relief and reconstruction.

Each experience provides them with an opportunity to improve upon their techniques, operating procedures and the special equipment they need. Sometimes they have estab­lished special teams for dealing with the more com­plicated kinds of emergency which are often to be experienced in a disaster area.

It is becoming in­creasingly recognised that the armed forces should expect to be called in at an early stage to provide emergency humanitarian aid anywhere in the world wherever disaster strikes. It is a role in which they should take pride and see as being as important, in terms of human survival, as their traditional role of national defence . . .

The military possess the technical and specialist units and equip­ment needed in a comprehensive relief and rescue operation. Equipped and organised to handle most disaster situations, the army possesses the neces­sary infrastructure to meet the immediate demands of a disaster and to be in place and functioning before the main national operational relief effort has been mounted. This can often mean the differ­ence between life and death for hundreds, probably thousands . . .

The NATO Watch article continues:

“(The Chairman of the Committee of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services in NATO (COMEDS), LTG Gérard Nédellec, MD, PhD) says that NATO must be prepared to provide a coordinated and unified response to the current Ebola threat in addition to any future communicable disease threat. He recommends that current deployable and domestic capabilities (both civilian and military) need to be identified, with a view to greater sharing and coordination of such capabilities. He also calls for a realignment of NATO planning and funding priorities to focus on developing an efficient, effective and sustainable response to future infectious disease outbreaks. Detailed guidelines for Ebola management by NATO are expected to be released later this month. Not a moment too soon for the people of West Africa. His statement on communicable disease outbreaks may be read here: COMEDS Statement on Communicable Disease Outbreaks

“NATO forces should be well prepared to set up state of the art field medical facilities, are trained in the management of chemical and biological warfare and have the equipment ready to isolate and treat patients. Most NATO member states also have medical professionals within their militaries who could potentially treat Ebola. Pre-deployment training, personal protective equipment, strict medical and hygiene protocols, and constant monitoring would mitigate the soldiers’ risks of becoming infected.

NATO centre milit medicine header

“NATO also has a Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine (MILMED COE) located in Budapest, Hungary, which is tasked with facilitating interoperability between the military medical services in NATO. It has eight member nations (Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania and the UK) and four medical branches: Deployment Health Surveillance Capability (DHSC) – a satellite branch located in Munich, Germany; Interoperability, Lessons Learned and Training. The DHSC, in cooperation with the German Medical Intelligence, published a risk assessment of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa on the 24 September. While not an official NATO document, the authors conclude that it “makes sense to apply the principles of ‘collective response’ and the doctrine of ‘smart defence’ to combat the outbreak of Ebola”. . .

Dr Ian Davis, Director, NATO Watch ends by emphasising: “In the longer term, of course, there needs to be greater emphasis on strengthening already fragile health systems in West Africa”.

Read about hospital ships, predominantly run by the military, in another NW article:
http://www.natowatch.org/node/1558
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