Lao PDR joins early warning system regional capacity development program
by Chani Goering
Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) hosted a team from PDC for an initiation and planning meeting as part of a new regional program designed to enhance disaster management capabilities throughout the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region. Lao PDR is one of the ASEAN member states that is working with the Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to broaden regional collaboration and use of PDC’s DisasterAWARE hazard monitoring and early warning platform.
“Lao PDR faces many hazards including floods, droughts, landslide, storms, climate risks , and more,” said Director General Vilayphong Sisomvang in his opening remarks during the meeting in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Mr. Vilayphong is the Director General of the Department of Social Welfare and serves as the Head of Secretary of Central Disaster Management Committee of Lao PDR and known as NDMO. “We must continue to combat these hazards by utilizing available technologies and expertise through our partners in the region.”
The program is funded by the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and aims to make use of the latest data, science, and technology among ASEAN member states. “ASEAN is home to one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, exposed to some of the most extreme hazards and disaster risks,” said USAID Deputy Country Office Director Patrick Bowers. “This program extends the successful model of partnership between PDC and the AHA Centre to Lao PDR— advancing our mutual objectives to save lives and strengthen collaboration between nations.”
The three-day meeting included delivery of training by PDC on the use of the AHA Centre’s robust Disaster Monitoring and Response System (DMRS)—a version of PDC’s DisasterAWARE platform customized specifically to support the ASEAN region. Participants represented organizations from across sectors, including the ministries of social welfare, defense, natural resources, the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee, and several others.
The training focused on use of the system for early warning alerts, disaster impact assessment, planning, and preparedness. “We are excited to begin the process of helping our Lao PDR disaster management colleagues leverage the wealth of analytics and global and regional information within DMRS—to be supplemented by Lao PDR national data—to make more informed decisions that save lives and reduce impacts to Lao PDR’s development.
We are grateful to USAID for their tremendous support towards this goal,” said PDC Deputy Executive Director Chris Chiesa. “It is exciting to see our long-held discussions and work to expand capacity with Lao PDR coming to fruition under this program.” The meeting explored existing decision-making processes and information flow between Lao PDR agencies and crafted a high-level concept of operations (CONOPS) for the use of DMRS to support disaster operations. Discussions also explored availability of authoritative data and information from Lao PDR agencies and how they could most readily be incorporated into DMRS.
The collaboration between PDC, the AHA Centre, and Lao PDR’s NDMO on disaster risk reduction and disaster response is not a first. In September this year, PDC and the AHA Centre developed a joint estimated flood impact analysis for Lao PDR to help the nation estimate population exposure, humanitarian needs, and potential building and infrastructure exposure during widespread flooding which hit the country. In 2018, PDC also produced flood maps to aid Lao PDR with response to the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy dam failure in Attapeu.
The maps provided first responders and disaster managers with the geographic areas of flood impacts and where vulnerable populations were located. Lao PDR’s use of DMRS will follow a model successfully used with their fellow ASEAN member Myanmar under a recently concluded project. It is hoped this model can be used with other ASEAN member states as well under this program. Under this regional program, PDC will also provide technical assistance to other AMS to develop and expand their own existing customized versions of DisasterAWARE.