Mass gatherings, including sporting events, religious occasions, festivals, concerts and alike bring people together from all over the world. As such, mass gathering events carry a risk of public health emergencies. With transport options becoming more affordable and accessible and businesses operating on a global scale, it is expected that more mass gatherings will take place, greater numbers of nations will be hosting them, and participants will be travelling from an increasingly large and distant number of countries. All these factors introduce new challenges to national and international health security. The COVID19 crisis has dramatically highlighted the need for managing such major events.
To respond to these challenges, the European Union’s (EU) Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centres of Excellence (CoE ) Initiative has funded Project 87 “Preparedness and Response for Mass Gatherings and Other Health Threats in Central Asia (PRECA)”. The project has been underway for more than a year and has the following results:
- Training of the ‘Master Trainer’ course for 96 participants from all participating countries took place in Tashkent in April 2022.
- A network of these Master Trainers now meets regularly in Regional Working Groups for each work package:
- PRECA is working with the World Health Organization to establish Poison Information Centres across the region.
- The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Food Safety Advisory Program is sharing resources.
- The international TOXBASE (Poison Information Centres’ chemical database) has granted access to and trained Public Health Professionals in partner countries.
- Local Master Trainers have run National Training Courses in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan and more courses in other partner countries are scheduled this year.
On 27-28 February, 2023, Public Health C3 and Exercising and Testing Regional Working Groups met in Bishkek to discuss a very important component of the project – a series of national and regional tabletop exercises, which will take place in May 2024 at high levels of government across the region. These exercises will allow the project participants to test countries’ Public Health emergency response plans during mass gathering events. Regional and National officials have kindly agreed to join the planning process as their support will be essential to its success.
On 27th of February 2023 during the high-level plenary opening session of the event Mr. Medetbek Mametov, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic stated that the Kyrgyz Republic is party to a number of UN conventions and agreements and by being part of PRECA project, the Kyrgyz Republic ensures implementation of its commitments with an ultimate objective to provide for safety and security of the Kyrgyz Republic, its people and the Central Asian region overall. Mr. Bakhtiyor Gulyamov, Head of the Regional Secretariat for Central Asia of EU’s CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative, stated that the main objective of the EU’s CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative and its projects is to facilitate regional cooperation in order to enhance CBRN risk mitigation awareness, readiness and capabilities at national, regional and international levels. In his turn, Mr. Raimonds Vingris, Deputy Head of Mission, EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic pointed out importance of international cooperation and exchange of best practices for effective emergency preparedness and response.
PRECA is a regional project aimed to strengthening response and preparedness to potential Mass Gathering health threats in partner countries, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. PRECA project is funded by the European Union through its CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence, and implemented by the International Science and Technology Center in close cooperation with Partner Countries’ national experts, CoE National Focal Points in Central Asia, UNICRI, CoE Regional Secretariat and EU Delegations in the Participating Countries.