Health organizations from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, together with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, have launched a project to jointly promote community preparedness and emergency response.The Regional Cooperation Ministry and the European Commission’s Partnership for Peace Program sponsored the project, and BGU, Magen David Adom, the Jordan Red Crescent and the Palestinian Authority’s Green Land Society for Health Development are to implement it. The groups are to develop and train community emergency response teams that will participate in joint exercises in 12 locations in the three regions that the organizations represent.“As emergencies are characterized by a shortage of resources, local and cross-border community response must be developed in order to reduce mortality and morbidity following a disaster,” said project director Dr. Bruria Adini, who is a member of the BGU Health Science Faculty’s emergency medicine department.“The proposed project aims at developing regional collaboration for empowering community emergency response in the Middle East,” explained Adani on Wednesday. “The new project grew out of the three-year project that focused on Jordan-Israel Collaboration in Disaster Preparedness and Response and was completed in November 2012. The major achievements of this collaboration were 14 Jordanian students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in emergency medical services, joint Jordanian- Israeli standard operating procedures for a joint response for natural disasters, and a cadre of Jordanian and Israeli first responders and volunteers who trained and exercised together to provide an effective emergency response.”The objective, she said, is “to develop the capacity and resilience of rural communities in Jordan, the PA and Israel to cope with disasters, including cross-border collaboration in emergency response. In addition, the teams will develop joint standard operating procedures for cross-border collaboration of communities during disasters.The cooperation will produce collective know-how that leads to common best practices in disaster management and sets the stage for cooperation, coordination and integration. Rural communities in the three entities will become more resilient in the face of disasters.”In the first year of the threeyear project, 30 trainers from the three countries (10 each) are to be trained. In the second year, community emergency response teams – with at least 60 people from each entity – are to be established and trained. In the final year, local, national and cross-border exercises are to be conducted practicing joint operations in response to a simulated disaster, Adini said.During the study period, there are to be annual assessments of community resilience and perceptions regarding regional collaboration and peace-building. Development strategy forums, comprised of key stakeholders from targeted communities as well as policy-makers from Jordan, Palestinian Authority and Israel, are to be established. The DSF, which would meet at least twice a year, are to be responsible for guiding and overseeing all activities initiated and implemented during the project.