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Saving more lives in less time

APAD international community shares best practices in COVID-19 experience

When COVID 19 hit the world, no one was prepared. Nobody expected that the unforeseen enemy would become the world’s greatest nightmare. The COVID-19 pandemic not only tested every nation’s response to a lingering health emergency but also determined every citizen’s resilience as they fought the deadly virus. 

On August 4, 75 disaster advocates, including the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management (A-PAD) international members and local partners, gathered at Hotel Manila by Shangri-la in Pasay City to share their experiences and how they conquered the pandemic. 

Their stories of survival and how they hurdled the most fatal disease that ever hit land after a century, were re-told and shared to the attendees of the International Symposium 2022 dubbed “Pandemic Resilience: Multi-Sector Partnership on Disaster Risk Management and Emergency Response” spearheaded by A-PAD Philippines. 


Strengthened cooperation toward Disaster Resilience and revival of the economy after the COVID Pandemic

The disruption caused by the COVID 19 pandemic has impacted the lives of tens of millions of the world’s population. It created a great divide between coping with the current threat of getting infected and living in the “new normal.”  

While most students struggle with their online classes, educators also grapple with their digital inexperience. While health workers face the threat of being infected with the virus, ordinary workers also writhed from the economic slump. The stigma of acquiring the virus also put the entire generation’s mental health in its dubious state. 

After almost 2 years, COVID 19 is still a threat to the human race. This prompted the A-PAD community to gather and share the invaluable lessons they learned from the pandemic and how they bounced back after the dark era plagued with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" (SARS-CoV-2) menace.

A-PAD Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, shared their best practices on how multi-sectoral collaboration on disaster management and emergency response work during the pandemic. 

These countries’ experiences will address the gap in improving the delivery of emergency responses and for every country to come up with mitigating efforts to combat the further spread of COVID-19.  

A-PAD Management Head of Management Office Director and Civic Force Executive Director Kaori Neki shared Japan's experience in fighting COVID 19. She has been working with a Humanitarian NGO and was assigned in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries since 2001. (Photo credits: A-PAD PH)

A-PAD Japan’s Social Emergency Management Alliance

A-PAD Japan forged an agreement with other organizations and launched SEMA or the Social Emergency Management Alliance.

“We launched SEMA, Japan’s first civil society service that provides one-stop services when a natural disaster occurs. It is a cross-sector alliance that provides emergency relief assistance in response to future natural disasters in Japan. Currently, there are 51 corporations and 6 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on board the project,” Head of A-PAD Management Office Director and Civic Force, member of A-PAD Executive Director Kaori Neki said. 

Neki also highlighted their innovation in international rapid response and shared their strategies to avoid wastage of resources during their COVID response.  

She said that they tapped the private sector which consists of the manufacturers, distributors, retail stores, and the government to check on relief supplies that are nearing their expiration dates. 

They also looked at the excess inventory, and outer damage box renewal, among others, and collaborated with NGOs, orphanages, humanitarian NGOs, emergency shelters, and affected local governments as recipients of the said resources. It reduced waste loss and supported the livelihoods of people in need.

“The system was designed to match the seeds of goods and services provided by companies with the needs of the affected areas. Comprehensive distribution services with private alliance support Japan’s resilience,” Neki stated in her presentation.

A-PAD Japan also shared their experiences in cross-border disaster responses, participation in the Asia Pacific Parliamentarians Forum, and the creation of “Flying Emergency Doctors Team 2020, distribution of over 1.4 million masks and the provision of trailers and air tents for COVID patients. They also have a stand-by rescue team and helicopters.

A-PAD Indonesia on reviving Tourism amid the COVID-19

A-PAD Indonesia Country Director Sinta Kaniawati focused her discussion on how the private sector’s involvement contributed to strengthening the disaster resilience of her country and how they bounced back towards economic recovery after most of their local MSMEs, and tourism industry was ravaged by the COVID pandemic. 

“The big concern and a challenge now are how to rise back and become resilient. Our tourism, which is the 2nd highest contributor to our economy, brought down $7B due to job loss and recession. We attempted to recover, believing that when you help tourism, we help the economy,” Kaniawati expressed. 

Kaniawati said that in Indonesia, they focused on tourism resilience. 

They strengthened Community-based resilience by coming up with the Disaster Safety Certification (DSC) guidelines in tourism for hotels and restaurants. 

A-PAD Indonesia Counrtry Director Sinta Kaniawati is also the Secretary-General of Indonesia Global Compact Networks from 2010-2019 which promotes Global Compact principles and SDGs amongst corporations and civil society organization. She said that “COVID information is crucial because, without reliable information and data, we can't deliver an effective emergency response. We developed enhanced collaboration amongst various sectors because they have a lot of capacity, expertise, and network,” the A-PAD country director added. (Photo credit: A-PAD PH)

To date, there are 16 hotels in Nusa Dua Bali that are safety verified, and 15 other hotels’ verification is set to be completed this August 2022. 

“The lesson we want to impart from Indonesia is that we should focus on our strength as an organization, meaning, our people, expertise, networks, the right attitude, and ethics. Go bigger and scale up through collaboration and partnership with a like-minded organization – that is if we want to stay relevant to A-PAD’s purpose ad mission in saving more lives in less time for the people that we live in.” 

A-PAD Sri Lanka highlights 3Ps

What kept Sri Lanka afloat amid the COVID pandemic was its alliance with other organizations and the effective Public-Private-Partnership (3Ps) in disaster preparedness and management. 

 A-PAD Sri Lanka Country Director and A-PAD Management Chief Operating Officer (COO) Firzan Hashim shared how the vitality of the private sector contributed to the successful management of the virus when the country registered its first COVID 19 patient in January 2020. 

“One of the experiences that we initially have with the pandemic was not only about lockdowns because what was enforced in Sri Lanka was a full-time curfew –and that brings a lot of issues related to economy, the freedom of movement, issues related to mental health and so on,” Hashim said.

A-PAD Sri Lanka Country Director Firzan Hashim specializes in linking the private sector with governments and humanitarian agencies for emergency assistance as well as for sustainable development. He served as a member of the Executive Committee Board for the Connecting Business Initiative (CBI),m Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo creedits: A-PAD PH)

Hashim, who was also the Head of Operation of A-PAD in Nepal, explained the chain of A-PAD response when COVID 19 had its outbreak in Wuhan and how they learned to establish a network to effectively respond to the dire need for resources, particularly PPEs during the first wave of COVID 19 and the succeeding phases of recurring cases.  

"Sri Lanka was very good in manufacturing, all the branded images or clothing here was done by us. Our apparel factories changed their production line from branded clothing to PPEs - and this was supported by the private sector in terms of funding. So, we bought the PPEs and ensured that the new product becomes a source of income to the MSMEs if not larger SMEs,” Hashim added.

Soon thereafter, the COVID products which were meant to only address the current pandemic led to a bigger business opportunity. The manufactured PPEs and masks were exported and brought in revenue to the local economy. 

“This is a very good example of creating an opportunity during disasters but also becoming self-sufficient in the process. We also worked with the Ministry of Health very closely. In terms of connectivity, we were able to do it because we have a platform on stage and thankfully it is still fully operational for 10 years now, Hashim shared. 

Sri Lanka’s Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) also worked best in responding to “intersecting disasters” or the simultaneous occurrence of landslides and floods, with COVID 19 on the sidelight.  

Moreover, A-PAD Sri Lanka introduced PPP to Civil/Military Cooperation (CIMIC) in Disaster Management and invested in various trainings which include international Standards in Swift Water Rescue and Rope Techniques, capacitated trained teams for specialized rescue trainings amidst the pandemic, and influenced the government to ordinate safety and security guidelines for rescuers during the pandemic. The said training was also given to first responder teams in various vulnerable communities. 

Their COVID response was not only centered on health issues but on the intertwining challenges that need a multi-faceted response – and A-PAD Sri-Lanka was able to successfully hurdle all of that by enjoining all sectors –both public and private to make the COVID fight a global battle. 

A-PAD Bangladesh partners with the medical sector

With the health personnel at the forefront of the COVID 19 fight, A-PAD Bangladesh believes that tapping the medical sector will help them in their campaign to minimize the health consequences brought about by the pandemic. 

“The medical sector has a fundamental role in managing the risks and reducing the consequences of emergencies and disasters from all hazards. The health sector is the frontrunner in managing infectious risks and responding to any outbreaks like the COVID-19 pandemic,” A-PAD Bangladesh Program Manager Sadia Samad Mou explained during her virtual presentation. 

Mou, who is the current Program Manager of A-PAD Bangladesh under the Capacity Building Project for the establishment and sustainable Management of Multi-sector Platform for Disaster Management in Bangladesh and Program Manager of the Project for the Construction of a community skill development center in Habiganj under the Embassy of Japan in the said country, believes that it is important to cultivate a relationship with disaster partners and put into consideration the varying sensitivity levels of the situation. 

They came up with various strategies and set parameters on how to lessen the exposure of the front liners to the virus by using a multidisciplinary approach geared towards building a healthy system and a resilient community. 

“The strategies that we employed are intended to ensure the availability of relevant policies, strategies, and capacity to guide health sector DRM interventions, reduce the occurrence and number of emergencies that progress to disasters, and improve risk management capacities as well as preparedness, and responsiveness and recovery,” Mou added. 

A-PAD Bangladesh, together with the medical sector, initiated the review of national disaster legislation and disaster risk management strategies and policies, updated national risk analyses and impact-based scenarios of all hazards via a multi-hazard approach, and enhanced community-based disaster preparedness program- which had a significant success in raising awareness, and incorporated preparedness for health-related emergencies, among others. 

Dr. Elmer Lorenzana, is A-PAD Philippines' Board of Trustees Secretary. He has been engaged in various research and community extension projects in and outside of the academy. This 2022, he led the research project conducted by A-PAD PH and Bicol University. (Photo credit: A-PAD PH)

A-PAD Philippines’ MERGED resilience

Just like other nations, the Philippines was not spared from the horrors of unprecedented losses caused by the fatal COVID 19 virus, especially during its first surge that left the globe in utter helplessness.

The devastating impact crept through the country’s economy, education, and health care system and has affected the total well-being of individuals and the community’s behavior as well. 

A-PAD Philippines Board of Trustees Secretary Dr. Elmer Lorenzana, also the current Director of Bicol University’s Center for Policy Studies and Development, summarized the country’s response and best practices in an acronym dubbed MERGED, which means Multi-sectoral partnership towards Efficient Response and Genuine Engagement for Disaster Resilience. 

Even before the pandemic, A-PAD PH has already established a localized multi-sectoral partnership with the business sector, civil society organizations, academe, local government units, and the media. 

During the pandemic, it was easier to mobilize these groups which, through time, have expanded their network to the medical and health sector, as well as to the government and private organizations. 

“During an emergency response, APAD PH can easily coordinate, generate resources, and communicate among partners to efficiently carry out its emergency response activities. With this multisectoral partnership, we were able to have an efficient response utilizing the available resources, tap communication partners, and strengthened our coordination and then the implementation on the ground,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana also explained the importance of genuine management through the dynamic partnership amongst the sectors and the participation of diverse organizations that worked towards a common purpose or goal. 

Summing it up, the effective response that made us win the fight was spelled as COLLABORATION. As the adage says, “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” (PIA5/Camarines Sur) 

About the Author

Ana-liza Macatangay

Regional Editor

Region 5

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