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.
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.
Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most disasterprone regions in the world. From 2012 to 2018,1,218 disasters occurred in the region, causing an estimated yearly damage of 15.9 billion US dollars, three times ASEAN’s collective annual GDP.
Countries around the globe face various types of catastrophic disasters. Tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides, cyclones, typhoons, floods, drought, and other climate change-related hazards are among the most common natural disasters. Their intensity and unpredictability have resulted in great loss of lives and damages to property and infrastructure.
Myanmar, which has a very long coastal line at 2,228 kilometers, is mainly exposed to water-related disasters. The decade before Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in 2008, large-scale disasters had been occurring in three- to five- year intervals.
“One ASEAN, One Response” is far from just a tagline. It is a well thought out concept born out of a necessity to connect the real disaster experience from ground zero to the highest level of the diplomatic arena in ASEAN. It was borne from ASEAN’s experience in its response to the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones known to mankind that killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines.
When Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) struck the Philippines on 7 November 2013, Rowel Balais and his family hunkered down in their home in the town of Palo, Leyte province. Along with Tacloban city, it was one of the hardest hit areas by the deadly typhoon. Haiyan affected 16 million people and killed over 7,000.
Rangi Sudrajat dreamed of being a humanitarian worker since she was a young girl. She decided to pursue a path of helping the less fortunate, after watching the news about refugees affected by the Kosovo war.
Over the period 2015-2020, Southeast Asia faced its most severe droughts in decades, with devastating impacts. No country in our region has been spared. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, our news headlines would have been dominated by drought impacts and recovery.
Super Typhoon Goni slammed the northeastern coast of the Philippines on the first day of November. The country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reports that as of 4 November, the typhoon had caused at least 20 deaths and affected more than two million people in 12 regions.
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