WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-14

Turning commitments into actions: perspectives on emergency preparedness in South-East Asia

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr Roderico H Ofrin
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.282989

PMID: 32341215

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Emergency preparedness is a continuous process in which risk and vulnerability assessments, planning and implementation, funding, partnerships and political commitment at all levels must be sustained and acted upon. It relates to health systems strengthening, disaster risk reduction and operational readiness to respond to emergencies. Strategic interventions to strengthen the capacities of countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region for emergency preparedness and response began in 2005. Efforts accelerated from 2014 when emergency risk management was identified as one of the regional flagship priority programmes following the pragmatic approach “sustain, accelerate and innovate”. Despite increased attention and some progress on risk management, the existing capacities to respond to health emergencies are inadequate in the face of prevailing and increasing threats posed by multiple hazards, including climate change and emerging and re-emerging diseases. The setting up of a “preparedness stream” under the South-East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund in July 2016 was an important milestone. The endorsement of the Five-year regional strategic plan to strengthen public health preparedness and response – 2019–2023 by Member States was another step forward. Furthermore, ministerial-level commitment, in the form of the Delhi Declaration on Emergency Preparedness, adopted in September 2019 in the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, is in place to facilitate Member States to invest resources in the protection and safety of people and systems and in overall emergency risk management through national action plans for health security. It is essential now to turn these commitments into actions to strengthen emergency preparedness in countries of the region.

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