Hilary Kimeli Limo, a Public Health Officer from Kenya, held a Commonwealth Professional Fellowship at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health North East in 2007.

‘Emergency planning programmes were not taken seriously by policymakers, NGOs and other providers in Kenya, but UK institutions and professionals prepared me fully to deal with emergencies.

‘Post-election violence in Kenya was a wake-up call to practicing environmental health officers, and the first week of January 2008 was critical to me when I decided to apply the skills I learnt on award in the UK, despite being faced with many challenges.

‘The situation on the ground was very complex because my own community was fighting with other communities and my intervention was interpreted in different ways. I was more enthusiastic than ever when I realised that my intervention provided hope to vulnerable groups, and I engaged my learnt skills to plan for a coordinated response.

‘My priorities were provision of shelter, water, sanitation facilities, and food for internally displaced persons, mainly children under the age of five, women, elderly people with terminally ill conditions, and people with disabilities.

‘My supervisor at the Tyne and Wear Emergency Planning Unit reminded me on several occasions that the cardinal rule of emergency preparedness is to be able to satisfy the basic right of people to life with dignity. The statement has been and will remain my driving force in an emergency situation.

‘My future plan is to link up with government agencies, NGOs, the private sector, and other stakeholders in planning for emergencies. I participated in the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation 2008-2012 strategic planning, where I pleaded with senior colleagues to factor in emergency and disease control strategies. The strategy was captured and we hope to roll out training soon.’