Republic of the Marshall Islands Holds First Pacific Island Nation COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise and Simulation

Some of the participants during the simulation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo: IOM

Some of the participants during the simulation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo: IOM

Majuro – The Republic of the Marshall Islands has conducted the first COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise (TTX) and Simulation among Pacific Island nations. Organized from August 12-14, 2020, by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Health Organization (WHO) in close collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under the Office of the Chief Secretary (OCS) and the Ministry of Health and Human Resources (MoHHS), the event was attended by 296 participants. The three-day event was opened by President David Kabua with dignitaries and other Nitijela Parliament members in attendance.

The event kicked off with the Tabletop Exercise (12-13 August) which tested the preparedness and response mechanisms in relation to the repatriation of citizens in a COVID-19 context for various health, emergency, disaster response organizations, working groups and national clusters.

The participation of the Kwajalein Emergency Operation Center (KEOC) will hopefully enhance coordination between the two urban centers in the Marshall Islands. According to Chief Secretary Kino S. Kabua, the TTX and Simulation have provided a platform to “strengthen internal protocols, communication, and information dissemination amongst participating offices and organizations.”

The TTX provided participants an opportunity to analyze, plan and coordinate response strategies that their respective agencies would implement in the face of a COVID-19 outbreak during repatriation. The two-day exercise ended with the groups drafting action plans based on gaps identified during the TTX. In coordination with the NDC, IOM will continue to support the participants in monitoring their action plans and continually assess preparedness for COVID-19.

On the last day of the event, a full-scale simulation walked participants through a repatriation scenario – from Points of Entry to quarantine site. The scenario involved two of the passengers on board developing possible signs of the virus which triggered the need for testing through the RMI MoHHS hotline as well as contact tracing at a local business. The six-hour simulation was followed by a two-hour debrief session with simulation evaluators.

Chief Secretary Kabua said at the conclusion of the event, “Overall it was a very useful exercise; the participation turn-out was great and it showed that we are all concerned with COVID-19. What matters next is addressing the gaps and limitations in our capabilities and systems in government that were identified during the exercise. There is still more work to be done to prepare for COVID-19.”

One of the key outcomes of the event was the realization there was a need for continued outreach, inclusion and practices with other key stakeholders such as traditional leadership and the private sector. Also notable was the need to:

  1. Improve internal communications and decision-making;
  2. Hold additional simulations and practices at targeted areas to ensure everyone who may need to be part of a repatriation is fully trained and confident in their relevant policies and procedures;
  3. Ensure basic baseline supplies and prepositioned items are fully in place and readily available.
  4. Give increased attention to inclusivity and gender-sensitive preparations and response in Standard Operating Procedures and policies.

Summing up the three-day event, IOM Head of Sub Office Angela Saunders, who was a lead facilitator for the TTX and Drill Master for the simulation said, “The Tabletop Exercise and Simulation was a clear illustration that there is a strong desire from all those in the RMI, from Government to our NGO partners who took the time to help evaluate the process, to be as prepared as possible for COVID-19.” Saunders added, “IOM looks forward to continuing to partner with the NDC and NEOC members to strategically and systematically address the recommendations of the evaluators and action plans for clusters/groups.”

The COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise (TTX) and Simulation was funded by USAID.

For more information, please contact Angela Saunders, IOM Micronesia, Tel: +692 625 4707, Email: