BANGKOK, 3 October 2016 – Countries across the region regularly face small- and medium-scale disasters. A plan to increase ASEAN capacity for health response during disasters gained headway with the first regional meeting for ‘The Project to Strengthen the ASEAN Regional Capacity in Disaster Health Management’ held in Bangkok on 29-30 September.

The three-year project aims to develop regional mechanisms to ensure rapid and effective health sector response to disasters through the mobilisation of health resources of ASEAN Member States. It also supports in enhancing the capacity of each ASEAN Member State through trainings and study programs so that they will be able to effectively lead and coordinate disaster health response in their countries, as well as augment response efforts of neighbouring countries affected by disasters.

Acknowledging the ever-increasing risks of disasters in the ASEAN region, we must be constantly prepared. This project protects more than 650 million people in the region from the impacts of disasters,” said Hiroo Tanaka, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Dr. Anuchar Sethasathein, Secretary General of the National Institute for Emergency Medicine of Thailand highlighted that “the project is part of a proposed ten-year vision in disaster health management (DHM), an outcome of a survey on the status of disaster/emergency medicine system in the ASEAN region in 2014-2015.”

The project will be guided by the “One ASEAN, One Response: ASEAN Responding to Disasters as One in the Region and Outside the Region,” a declaration signed by the heads of state/government during the 28th ASEAN Summit in Vientiane to achieve faster response, mobilise greater resources and establish stronger coordination to ensure ASEAN’s collective response to disasters.

During the period 2004 to 2014, the ASEAN region recorded more than 50 percent of the total global disaster fatalities or 354,000 of the 700,000 deaths in disasters worldwide.  The total economic loss was estimated at US$91 billion. In the last decade the region suffered from two high-impact, large-scale disasters that captured the attention of the world namely the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The meeting formed a regional coordination committee and two working groups that will provide strategic oversight to the project and will develop regional health response coordination tools including training programs.

DHM is one of the 20 health priorities of ASEAN reflected in its Post-2015 Health Development Agenda  which was endorsed by the ministers of health in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2014.

# # #