Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development



The following account of a recent AFTERSHOCK game was provided by Henning Liljeqvist.


The World Health Organization, in partnership with University of New South Wales, runs annually a five day intensive course in communicable diseases in emergencies. The course targets health coordinators and medical advisers working in humanitarian emergencies for Ministries of Health, NGOs, UN agencies, international organizations, universities, technical institutions and donor agencies.

In November 2015 we tried AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game for the first time and although it is not designed specifically for simulating communicable disease management, it was a great tool for presenting the complexities involved in coordinating a response to a complex emergency.

Our session included 25 students and we used one AFTERSHOCK game. On Rex Brynen’s advice, we used a camera image projected to a big screen in order to engage all participants at the same time. This worked really well, although we had to keep reminding participants not to stand in front of the camera. The image was clear enough that all details of the game could be seen by all in the room.

The class was divided into the four response components: Carana, HADR-TF, UN and NGOs and each of the teams was then divided in two: one playing group and one observing group. We ran a timed game over 2 hours and 15 minutes and changed over between playing and observing team members at the end of each full game turn. The initial instruction was for the observing groups to keep track of events and to make notes, but it very soon developed into a situation where the players and the observers collaborated with each other. This way the whole room was engaged for the whole game. As a result of this the game probably progressed slower than it may otherwise have done. We made it through week 3-4, but still just cleared relief points into the positive.

We ran an immediate debrief in which important lessons were discussed. The students made comment such as: “This was an eye-opener,” “This helped us to see how complex the arrangements can be in a disaster response,” “We saw the importance of cooperation between responding agencies,””Logistics and planning are a keys to getting relief resources to those who need it.”

I asked the students also to suggest ways in which the game might be targeted at communicable disease management. Suggestions included introduction of malaria management, facilitation for measles vaccination from the start (perhaps by spending OPs). Another suggestion was to include more complex considerations for groups at greater risk (socioeconomic status and other health indicators) to incorporate prioritization based on such concerns.

Henning Liljeqvist
Communicable Disease Epidemiologist (Biopreparedness)
Guest lecturer WHO/UNSW Communicable Disease Management in Humanitarian Emergencies

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