It is with great pleasure that I welcome the opportunity to contribute insights from a Canadian perspective. This COVID-19 Special Issue on “Strengthening Health Systems in ASEAN” is timely to reflect on the challenges posed during this unrelenting global pandemic.
Changi Airport, Southeast Asia’s busiest airport with hundreds of thousands of passengers on a typical day, sat near empty for months. The sprawling Angkor Wat complex, normally bustling with tourists in the peak months of January to April, fell silent.
These scenes, which look straight out of a dystopian movie, paint a dynamic region on pause.
In today’s digital age, compelling narratives can make a message stand out in a saturated media landscape. They can capture the imagination, build understanding, and forge emotional connections among people.
Thailand has suffered severe economic losses and social disturbance due to the global outbreak of diseases or pandemics. In January 2004, the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus of the H5N1 subtype was first confirmed in poultry and humans in Thailand.
The ASEAN Health Sector has been engaged in the prevention, detection, and response to COVID-19 since the first week of January 2020 when information about the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City was shared with the ASEAN Secretariat.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala talks to The ASEAN about COVAX, one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which focuses on ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to both higher income and lower-income countries. She also shares her insights on the ongoing competition and prospects for cooperation in vaccine development and distribution.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shares with The ASEAN, WHO’s ongoing initiatives to ensure the fair and equitable access of countries to safe vaccines, and continuing cooperation with ASEAN to control COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics. He also discusses securing global health and better emergency preparedness through sweeping institutional changes at WHO and stronger national health systems.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the ASEAN Secretariat upon the launching of The ASEAN magazine. It is my honour to join in this issue with this interview on a most pressing and important subject of healthcare systems.
Months into the pandemic, Dr. Disa Edralyn understood that the risk of contracting the coronavirus is higher for medical workers in Indonesia.
The 27-year-old doctor, who is currently inactive to focus on her speciality study on anaesthesiology, was tested positive with COVID-19 in July. Earlier, her 61-year-old dentist mother was also infected by the virus.
Flying the skies to nurturing the earth sums up Captain Nadira and Captain Abdul Rahman’s journey over the past few months.
Many employees in the aviation industry are still facing turbulent times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While boarding gates remain shut, this inspiring husband-wife team share their passion for flying and how they navigate life away from the cockpit.
Tadioto is owned by Nguyen Qui Duc, a well-published Vietnamese-American writer who decided to return to Viet Nam after years of living in the US. Duc opened Tadioto in 2007, and after several iterations, it has become the favourite haunt of artists, writers, and literati in Viet Nam. They come to mingle, toss ideas, and soak up the bar’s creative vibe while partaking of good food, drinks, and music. Over the years, Tadioto has also become a place to showcase the work of established and budding musicians, performers, visual artists, and poets— local and foreign alike.
Tadioto is one of the many businesses in Hanoi that has been upended by COVID-19 control measures. Duc had to adjust his operations to stay afloat and retain his staff. Through these challenging times, he kept Tadioto open as a space not only for artistic expression, but also as an outlet for patrons to ponder and process the impact of the pandemic and other social malaise.
With a focused passion to uphold the integrity and quality of journalism, Ain Bandial and three colleagues made the brave move of starting Brunei Darussalam’s first digital only media company in September 2017.
Eyebrows may have been raised as such a venture had yet to be undertaken. Three years on, the Scoop now has a monthly readership of 80,000 viewers, with 70,000 social media followers.
Samak Kosem has been researching on Muslim culture in Southern Thailand for many years. The PhD candidate at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Chiang Mai University communicates his findings through photography, mixed media, and videos, among others, to reach a wider audience.
His recent research focuses on homosexuality in Muslim society to understand the limitations of gender perspectives in the society. When the pandemic hit, Samak, who has exhibited his works at the Bangkok Art Biennale and in galleries from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong, needed to adjust his plans for his arts and research projects.
The hawker scene is an integral part of Singapore’s culture. Locals and tourists throng hawker centres to enjoy local cuisine at affordable prices. But diners had to stop eating out when Singapore imposed circuit beaker measures in April to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The partial lockdown left hawker centres empty for months.
Melvin Chew, the second-generation owner of the Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck and Kway Chap stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, decided to take action to survive the pandemic. He created the Hawkers United-Dabao 2020 Facebook group that allows hawkers to promote their food and services on the platform. The group saw 25,000 members sign in within the first 24 hours. Now, it has over 280,000 members.
Peter Thipommajan, a 23-year-old economics graduate from National University of Laos, began teaching English informally to children in 2019.
From Monday to Friday, he would rent the Saelao Restaurant in Ban Nathong, Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province and hold a free two-hour English class for interested children, aged 10 to 16. Peter thinks that it is important for Laotian children to learn English as it is essential for accessing information, communicating with different groups of people, and having a good career in the future.
Peter’s fledgling project, located in a thriving tourist town, soon drew the interest of foreigners staying in the area who wanted to lend a hand. This led to the formation of Mittaphap (translated as “friendship”) in 2020, a non-profit organisation whose goals have expanded to include not only free English language education, but also health and nutrition as well as environmental management.
Mittaphap established the Mittaphap Education Center, and registered this centre with the Ministry of Education of Laos PDR. Soon after, it moved its English classes to public school facilities. It rented the Saelao property as the base of its operations. It now houses foreign volunteers and serves as the site of its health, nutrition and environmental projects. It also runs a small restaurant on the side to partly fund the projects of Mittaphap.
Mittaphap’s operations were stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. English classes, health and nutrition activities, and environmental projects were all suspended when the first COVID-19 cases started appearing in Laos.
For more than 20 years, the ICANSERVE Foundation has been on a mission to save lives by advocating for early breast cancer detection, and by linking breast cancer patients and survivors to vital information and resources that can set them on the path to healing and wellness.
ICANSERVE Foundation was founded by four cancer survivors who all know what it takes to overcome the disease. Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, an accomplished Filipino broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker, is one of the founders and served as its president. She now sits as a member of the board of trustees and chairman of the advocacy committee.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kara and her team have been working tirelessly to continue ICANSERVE Foundation’s advocacy work and at the same time, address the urgent needs of breast cancer patients, such as access to face masks, transportation, and funding.
For human resources consultant Paul Nyan Myint Soe, the COVID-19 pandemic means chaos and disaster.
The 43-year-old business director was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October, and from his quarantine room, he learned how the virus caused him and his family a great loss.
Jonas Elmer Balneg studied nursing because his mother was a nurse too. The Philippines is one of the major sources of nurses globally.
Many like Jonas take up nursing with hopes of landing an overseas job. His plan was to work in the country for two to three years and move abroad, but Jonas has chosen to stay for now.
He has worked for almost a decade at one of the Philippines’s largest public hospitals, where he says he is earning a comfortable living. Jonas talks about the health workers’ fears when reports about a new coronavirus first broke, the uncertainty of handling patients, and the important role nurses play in a health emergency.