A four-day training on dealing with chemical weapon attacks or incidents involving toxic industrial chemicals is underway in Accra.
It is organised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in partnership with the governments of Ghana, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The programme is aimed at building the capacity of emergency response agencies of member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with the skills and knowledge to be able to conduct necessary operations in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack or incident involving toxic industrial chemicals.
Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Patricia Appiagyei, who opened the workshop yesterday, said the training course was timely in supporting efforts to establish active and well-trained emergency response teams and equip them with the requisite know-how to identify chemical agents and coordinate rescue operations.
In addition to that, she stated that, the training would help first responders to chemical emergencies to decontaminate affected areas and people exposed to chemical weapons.
She explained that effective emergency preparedness was critical to minimising the impacts of chemical disasters which could be harmful to human life and have adverse environmental and economic impacts.
In Ghana, the Deputy Minister said, the siting of storage or manufacturing facilities that contain toxic industrial chemicals and other toxic materials in urban centres presents risk of chemical weapons attack, which could endanger public safety on a large scale.
Although the industrial chemicals were important to the country’s development, she said, special properties of chemicals including reactivity, flammability, explosiveness and toxicity poses great danger to humans and the environment.
As a measure to prevent and mitigate chemical weapons attack, Madam Appiagyei called on countries to create awareness and recognise the potential threats of toxic industrial chemicals and avoid the stockpiling or use chemical weapons for military preparation and drills.
In a speech read on his behalf, British High Commissioner to Ghana, Ian Walker, said the resurgence in the use of chemical weapons globally poses a threat to international peace and security.
In this regard, he stated that, it was time the international community sent a collective message that the use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone under any circumstances was unacceptable.
He urged the countries to support the OPCW in its mission to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to promote a world free of chemical weapons, adding that the United Kingdom was focused on supporting the ECOWAS region to work with the OPCW to achieve the objectives of the convention.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS