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US Military to Boost Nigeria's Emergency Response

About 250 American military personnel are due in Nigeria this weekend for the start of two-week military medical-training exercise. The project will deal with responding to emergencies and disasters.

The military medical-training exercise, code-named MEDFLAG 2006, aims to enhance Nigeria's capacity and competence to respond to disasters or emergencies.

Analysts say Nigeria's response to recent disasters, including two plane crashes last year, has been very embarrassing.

Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Air Force told reporters the training program will cover every aspect of emergency or disaster management.

"What is nice about the kind of training we are doing is that it covers every kind of emergency of disaster that your country can have, and at the same time it helps both the military and the civilians take away a lot of great lessons learned. What kind of procedure do we have in place in the event of a crisis? How do we get first responders to actually go to car accident or aircraft accident site? Is there appropriate transportation to get transponders to a site? How do we identify the needs if you have a large population in crisis? How do we identify what their needs are? And how do we begin to bring in needed emergency relief to meet their needs?," he said.

The $4 million project includes a medical outreach program under which more than one-thousand civilian patients will receive free dental and optical treatment, and surgery.

Non-governmental organizations and government agencies involved in disaster management and emergency relief tasks will join Nigerian military personnel during the two-week training.

Colonel Bryant explained that Kaduna in northern Nigeria was chosen to host the program in a deliberate attempt to reach out to Muslims in Nigeria.

"We are very interested and really committed to working Muslim populations. As you know, Kaduna is in the north, it has Muslim population. We are very committed to working with that population to improve access to health care, improve some types of health care especially optometry, which is really difficult to secure in this country. We are also, from a military point of view, putting in a lot of water wells, working to provide access to water for the first time, for many communities up north," he said.

Benin, Ghana and Senegal would also benefit from the project. The overall goal is to provide West Africa military personnel with training and operational experience and build up the medical capability of the Economic Community of West African States standby military force.