Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests,
Today, I am very honored and extremely delighted to join with you all Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests here at the opening of the National Workshop on “Disaster Management and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness”.
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely appreciate and highly praise the managements of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and other relevant agencies and authorities, including all level of civil servants for their services so far as well as the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia, National Police Force, National Military Police Force, Intervention Forces, national and international organizations and generous people for their intervention in rescuing and providing direct humanitarian assistance to those victims affected by various calamities, timely and effectively.
I am firmly convinced that this 2-day National Workshop is an important event to exchange as well as to share good ideas and experiences on disaster management, including pandemic influenza preparedness, HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Cambodia. Let me thanks the management of NCDM for putting together this National Workshop, and also, I would like to extend my appreciation to WHO and OXFARM for their close collaborations in arranging and supporting this workshop.
In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to the Cambodian Red Cross for its intervention to rescue the victims, and the poor and to build army bases for the Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia. These activities play an important role in sharing the RGC’ s burden as well as preserving the well-being and safety of the Cambodian people.
This workshop is being held at the time when Cambodia is enjoying peace and political stability, and at the middle of the rainy season which is favorable for early-season harvesting. At the same time, we are well prepared to prevent and curb the impact of any calamity or disease outbreak such as bird flu, which is occurring in the world, especially in Asia Pacific, and Cambodia has also experienced this problem. Recently, based on my recommendations, the head of the National Committee for Disaster Management and its staff have already created a plan to publicize preventative measures to people living in all provinces-cities, districts-khan, communes-sangkat and local communities. This scheme aims to prepare preventative measures and minimize the impact of calamities.
In particular, with regards to the forecast of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the Mekong’s water level might reach 10.45 meters. This is just only a forecast. However, we must be prepared to intervene timely as the effect of the disaster always resulted in negative impacts to the socio-economy. Obviously, we already knew that flood and drought in 2000-2001 were more severe than ever but we could still handle those problems successfully.
On 26 December 2004, the TSUNAMI took place and subsequently, gigantic natural disasters such as bird flu outbreaks and other diseases occurred in developing and developed countries and they have not been properly and successfully addressed yet. This means that the effect of the disasters can destroy public wealth and infrastructure instantly but the reconstruction process can take a very long time to finish. Fortunately, Cambodia is located in a favorable geographic location and hence, exempted from the above mentioned disasters, but this does not mean that we are careless or unprepared to manage any calamity.
For instance, we have successful experiences on controlling and curbing the year 2000 millennium flood disaster which was the worst flood disaster in the history. During the year 2001-2002, we have succeeded again in dealing effectively with flood and drought disasters for 3 consecutive years. In addition, we should remember that in 2006 Cambodia proudly hosted the ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise successfully in Takhmao town, Kandal Province. This exercise was conducted with the purpose of enhancing the capacity of the rescue mechanism, and we should continue to do it in the future.
Since the mid-2003, some countries have faced a new pandemic threat, namely Bird Flu (Avian Flu). This disease is originated and produced greatest impacts in some countries of South East Asia. Until now, WHO estimated that there are 189 death and 310 infection cases worldwide and 90% of the cases occurred in South East and East Asia region in which Indonesia has been experiencing the most severe impact. It is wise that there will be a signing ceremony tomorrow on the Cambodian National Plan for “Bird and Human Influenza” between the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health and the National Committee for Disaster Management, with cooperation from UNDP and WHO, under the presidency of H.E. Deputy Prime Minister SOK AN.
Therefore, in order to deepen the understanding of this workshop, and to facilitate successful implementations, I would like to provide some recommendations as follows:
First, The National Committee for Disaster Management must expand and strengthen disaster management works by acting as the central institution and cooperate with related ministries and institutions, Cambodian Red Cross, national and international partner organizations regarding the management of disasters caused by human and nature. In addition, in 1995, the National Committee for Disaster Management was established and played an important role in disaster management by setting up hierarchical structure in provinces, cities, districts, khan, sangkat and communes. Thus, all ministries, institutions, local authorities, and other related institutions must provide further cooperation and support to the National Committee for Disaster Management to rescue the lives of people and animals, and assets timely and effectively. NCDM must prepare the policy framework and management strategy and to strengthen its structure to ensure a transparent and successful implementation of disaster management mechanism in Cambodia.
Second, Establish an early warning system, disseminate and educate information to the public. NCDM must efficiently cooperate with specialized institutions and modernize the early warning system in order to inform the public about warning signals timely. Timely dissemination of information regarding the signal and magnitude of disasters is a very important factor in reducing and mitigating the effect of disasters on people, animals, properties as well as country development.
At the same time, NCDM must provide more educational programs and trainings through educating related ministries-institutions and local communities about the preparedness for disasters and taking a wide variety of measures to mitigate or reduce their impacts.
Third, NCDM, related ministries/institutions, and the horizontal disaster management institutions at municipal-provincial, district-khan, commune-sangkat levels and specialized agencies must take measures to educate the public and be prepared in taking actions to reduce the impact of disasters and to prevent them from occurring. These preventive measures include preventing the community from settling in unsafe areas, improving and upgrading the construction’s quality and unsafe electrical system, transporting and storing oil and gas in appropriately and at crowded places, building houses on the river banks, lake and canals. At the same time, we must take actions to preserve and develop our valuable and important ecological system in a sustainable manner because it is the natural barrier against storm, flood and drought.
Fourth, NCDM must organize an emergency rescue system, protect and redevelop communities to coordinate and participate in the emergency rescue mission. In that, the Cambodian Red Cross, Royal Armed Forces of Cambodia, National Police Force, National Military Police Force, Intervention Force, national and international development agencies, NGOs, and generous national and international people have very important role according to their responsibilities and duties to provide emergency aid to the devastated communities.
Fifth, In times of disaster, local authorities at all levels and the horizontal disaster management institutions in charge must take emergency rescue actions such as search and rescue, transport victims to a safe place, distribute food and clean water, provide accommodation and security, health services and other prioritized needs to victims. In case of severe disasters, authorities at the national level must take immediate actions by using all means and measures and employing all existing resources. We also need the cooperation and kind assistance from international communities and agencies as well as from friend countries.
After the emergency rescue actions have been carried out, we must rehabilitate the livelihoods of our people who are victims and rebuild the infrastructures at those affected communities such schools, referral hospitals, wells and ponds in order to bring lives back to normal. In this spirit, our workshop must seek further new measures such as conducting a feasibility study on the ability to establish the agricultural yields insurance system or a rescue fund for victimized communities.
Sixth, Implement human and animal pandemic influenza programs in addition to flood, drought, fire, traffic accident, storm and AIDS. At the present time, bird flu caused by a virus called H5N1 has threatened the lives and livelihoods of our people. For the last 3 years, Cambodia has been combating and managing bird flu among human and animals. It is true that the virus H5N1 has claimed 6 lives so far, and the outbreak of this disease among birds is still happening at rural communities for example at the southern provinces of the country.
Seventh, We must be prepared and responsive to such incidence of a plane crash that we encountered last week and that occurred in 1997.
In the present time, Cambodia and many other countries in the region and the world are joining together to fight against the threat of bird flu’s virus because there is a growing concern that the H5N1 virus can be transformed into human’s influenza and spread across the globe, seriously affecting human lives and impede the whole society. If the H5N1 virus can actually transformed itself into human’s influenza and spread across the globe, it will seriously and inevitably affect human lives and the socio-economy. By then, public services delivery at the local level will be disturbed and the whole economy will be affected and impeded by the serious lost of human capital. This concern resulted in a joint effort to combine the management planning on human’s health and animal’s diseases with the inter-ministerial planning and by linking to the information planning, dissemination and communication.
During this last period, the close and active cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry and the Ministry of Health and the supports from the United Nations in Cambodia has led to the successful establishment of the national draft plan on the management of bird flu and human influenza which is a result of the Royal Government-United Nations’ joint planning on the combat against the global pandemic influenza, signed by His Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An and Mr. Douglas Gardner on December the 16th 2005. There are three main components exist in that joint planning:
1. Animal’s health plan and the contamination among animals of MAFF.
2. Human’s health plan and the spread from animal to human being of MAFF.
3. Inter-ministerial cooperation plan of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).
The whole plan must facilitate the implementation of NCDM under direct leadership of the chairmen in order to exercise the national measures on the prevention and preparation to fight and respond to the global spread of the disease by chance.
In this regard, all the Royal Government’s ministries/institutions and related agencies which are the members of NCDM must actively participate and closely cooperate with the NCDM to implement their duties commissioned by the RGC for disaster management in all scenarios across the country in the process of preparing for prevention, response and restoration for the universal pandemic influenza. Organize meeting and dissemination on the management of bird flue and its global spread to raise the awareness among officials in preparing and being ready to respond in case of disaster. All involved institutions must appoint the focal officials to coordinate in planning the responses to the effect of the spread which would spill over to its field and the intervention plan to help the victims and effected communities. Report to the National Committee for Disaster Management on all activities in order to facilitate the implementation and cooperation.
Indeed, we cannot totally mitigate the disaster, but we have to do what we can to prepare for it, for instance, flood, drought, bird flue, HIV/AIDs and other contagious diseases in order to reduce its impact. However, the human made and nature made disasters have been occurring increasingly in the world, especially in the Asia Pacific region, which resulted in the lost of human lives, and public properties. Because of the frequent changes in the weather conditions, we have to always be alert and monitor the disaster warning signals as it is the obligation that we all can and must do in order to participate in poverty reduction as well as for the restoration and development of our people with high responsibilities and prevent the lost of our people’s lives.
Once again, on behalf of Royal Government and myself, I would like to express my honest appreciation to the National Committee for Disaster Management and national and international partners who have closely cooperated with one another to organize this important workshop. I strongly believe that the 2-day workshop will be fruitful for the benefit of disaster prevention and management in the future.
Finally, I would like to wish you all with Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings and wish the workshop with success and fruitful outcomes. I would like to announce the opening of the national workshop.