Countries of the South-East Asia Region (SEAR) of WHO are highly vulnerable to natural disasters. The magnitude of disasters and their effects have considerable impact on the morbidity and mortality of the Region where 25% of the world’s population reside. As per disaster statistics, SEAR member countries accounted for around 46% of deaths due to disasters globally in the decade 2001 to 2010. With increasing public health risks, health sector’s responsibilities towards the vulnerable communities have also been increasing.
Drought, flood, cyclone, earthquake, tsunami, glacial lake outbursts and other natural hazards have become shared risks for all countries in the region. Complex and technological emergencies have also become common events for various reasons.
In each country, disaster risk management policies, processes and programme delivery vary widely. While some countries have fairly well-developed disaster risk management frameworks and institutional structures, others are still starting to develop their own systems. Investments in this area have increased tremendously, particularly in the health sector.
Regionally and globally, developments in the area of disaster risk management have impacted the way policies and programmes are implemented in the health sector. A platform to discuss how this can be better integrated and delivered to communities is fundamental.
The meeting aims to develop a roadmap for better disaster-risk management in the health sector in line with regional and global initiatives. This will be achieved by:
1. Reviewing risk management capacity in the health sector;
2. Discussions on initiatives for improving inter-country cooperation amongst SEAR countries especially in addressing common hazards, research, community resilience and risk reduction; and
3. Identifying steps to establish a network of emergency preparedness and response within the region through a mechanism of structured exchange of information.
The outcome of the meeting will be the strategic next steps for:
1. Supporting community resilience in emergencies by focusing on primary health care approach;
2. Enhancing and improving information management and research by linking important institutions;
3. Integrating key elements of risk management practices in the health sector
4. Working towards a network for structured information exchange and expertise across and between countries.
An overall road map for all these inputs will bring the various initiatives of the countries more cohesively so that disaster risk management in the health sector can further improve for the people of the South-East Asian countries - in a proactive stance to the newer risks and vulnerabilities it faces.
The meeting will be attended by officials from concerned Ministries of Health and National Disaster Management Authorities from the Member States, UN agencies, international organizations, NGOs, donor agencies and academic institutions.
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