AHA CENTRE WELCOMES NEW
The AHA Centre welcomed its new Executive Director Mr. Lee Yam Ming on 30 August 2021. A native of Singapore, ED Lee has been in public service for 27 years.
He is an Assistant Commissioner of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and has held several leadership positions in the field of command, operations, training, policy and planning, risk management and governance, and human resources.
ED Lee is no stranger to ASEAN. He has been involved in ASEAN matters since 2004 and has represented the SCDF at various international and regional platforms. This includes the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (UN INSARAG) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEAN Regional Forum.
Even in conceptualising and establishing the AHA Centre, ED Lee was already very much involved. He was part of the Singapore team that negotiated, drafted and ratified foundational agreements for the ACDM, such as the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) and the ASEAN Agreement on the Establishment of the AHA Centre. He was also involved in the drafting and adoption of the ASEAN Declaration on One ASEAN, One Response and the ASEAN 2025 Vision, and recently the AADMER Work Programme 2021 – 2025.
When asked how the AHA Centre continues to be at the forefront of disaster management and emergency response in the ASEAN region during the pandemic, he emphasised that the AHA Centre must be always ready to respond to any natural disasters in the region, even in a pandemic situation. ASEAN and the AHA Centre have grown and developed their capacities and resources over the years. ASEAN Member States have proved to be resilient and efficient in responding to several major disasters. We will continue to review and adapt our framework and response mechanisms, to ensure that we are able to meet any new challenges and evolving global and regional situations.
As the new ED, Mr. Lee envisions the AHA Centre continuing to play an important role in disaster management in the ASEAN region and beyond.
“ASEAN and the AHA Centre must be proactive and responsive to changing environments and be innovative and transformative in approach. Closer collaboration and integration of various countries, agencies and partners in disaster management and humanitarian assistance are essential and critical in a closely connected and integrated world.”
ED Lee graduated with a good honors degree in History from the National University of Singapore. He is married with one daughter. An active sportsman in his younger days, he plays football, squash and badminton amongst many other sports. ED Lee is a big football fan and supports Liverpool. He enjoys watching movies, doing light exercise in his free time and short holidays and travelling with his family.
Written by : Judith Garcia Meese | Photo Credit: AHA Centre
LAWRENCE ANTHONY DIMAILIG
At first glance, Lawrence Anthony Dimailig, “LA” to his friends and colleagues, could still pass for a university student. But his youthful looks belie his years of experience in disaster and risk management, his passion for it and how he regards it as his life’s calling.
After seeing the devastation to life and property that Super Typhoon Haiyan left in its wake in 2013, in Tacloban, Philippines, “I made a pact with myself. That was the time I felt that I’d dedicate my life to disaster management. This should be the last time I should see something like that,” says LA. Only military planes were allowed in and out of the island after the typhoon struck in November 2013. “I was aboard the first set of C130s that landed in Tacloban City.” A few days later, he found himself in the back of a military truck riding through the streets, and he remembers it clearly to this day. “You couldn’t distinguish debris from bodies on the road. We passed by what looked to me like a pile of garbage covered with newspapers. As we went past it, the newspaper flew away, revealing the body of a child, about 7-10 years of age. It broke my heart. I vowed then that I would devote my life to saving people’s lives, that this should be the last time I should see something like that. I made a pact with myself that I’d dedicate my life to disaster management. I had an epiphany.”
These were the important experiences that led LA to pursue humanitarian work and disaster management. But his journey in this field started much earlier, while he was pursuing a degree in geography. He developed his skills at mapping and spatial analysis, which eventually led him to humanitarian work. “Mapping is my craft,” he says. “After university, I entered into public service in May 2013. Five months into my first job, I was asked to map all evacuation centres in Zamboanga after the military siege, then again in Bohol when the big earthquake struck the island. I was tasked with mapping all evacuation centres, doing some logistical planning so that the delivery of relief items was efficient.” This was the first time he used his skills for disaster management. This was the point when LA realised that his craft of making maps could actually touch people’s lives. And that was just the start.
LA joined the AHA Centre in January 2019 as a Disaster Monitoring and Analysis Officer. Seven months later, he was promoted to Assistant Director for Disaster Monitoring and Analysis. “It opened up new perspectives to me. The AHA Centre is a coordinating centre that has the regional advantage and unique opportunity of linking one country to another. We do things on a broader scale. We have the time to step back, see the bigger picture, propose new things to make disaster management better and improve the knowledge base.”
He adds that there is more access to resources and higher technology, but realises that a disaster response has to be contextualised. “Things that can work in the Philippines may not work in Indonesia. There are some things that can work in a certain way and you can import knowledge from one country to another.” At the AHA Centre, LA feels he can also help facilitate learning. His first field deployment as ASEAN-ERAT was to Sulawesi in 2018, and his most recent was in 2019 to Lao PDR before the pandemic broke out.
In between humanitarian work, LA finds time to pursue another passion, free diving. Initially, the blue waters of the sea evoked thoughts of the endless deep and its unknown denizens. But all that changed when he took up free diving upon the advice of a close friend. “I had to train first. I went to Apo Reef in the Philippines the first time I did it and saw a huge sea turtle. Wow! The world beneath the waterline was so majestic. It mesmerised me.”
While his new passion led him to discover life beneath the sea, it also exposed him to the destruction humans have caused through garbage and plastic. “I saw creatures wrapped in plastic. We are destroying the environment with the deeds of the bad and the inaction of good people. Now, when we go free diving, every dive is a clean-up dive.” LA is hopeful every time he visits coastal communities that he can get to talk to locals on subjects like community-based waste management systems, and with other people who are equally passionate about preserving the environment.
LA is fortunate to have discovered his calling early on. He is excited for what is in store with humanitarian work through the enabling power of technology. “The AHA Centre has the ‘minds’ to build and impart more knowledge, develop artificial intelligence and machine learning towards finding solutions.” Through the AHA Centre, he hopes that ASEAN countries will become self-reliant, stronger and more resilient in dealing with whatever challenges the future holds.
Written by : Judith Garcia Meese | Photo Credit : Lawrence Anthony Dimailig
INTRODUCING CHARLES SILVA
LACER PROJECT TEAM LEADER
The AHA Center welcomed in August a new team leader for the LACER project, Mr Charles Silva of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).
He has previously implemented capacity-building projects in Southeast Asia, a region that he “respects and holds dear”, but the LACER project offers a big leap in scope, given the significant number of people served by the project and its partner institution the AHA Centre. The ASEAN countries have a combined population of over 650 million people and collectively face growing risks from natural disasters and their increasing impact. Recurring earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, flooding and pandemics take a big toll on the region. For this reason, Charles sought the LACER role as he sees himself solidly contributing to addressing this widening humanitarian challenge and the urgent need to reduce the scale of damage, injury and economic loss caused by disasters.
Charles is well used to working in different countries and cultures, a capability which will prove very useful in the ASEAN region, which encompasses many different ethnicities, languages, cultures and histories. His background combines more than 15 years of experience leading initiatives in humanitarian response and capacity-strengthening in disaster risk reduction and management (DRR/DRM) and this should greatly assist him in making the LACER project a success.
What attracted Charles to the AHA Centre was its dedicated team of qualified staff who currently deliver services across a number of key functions of disaster preparedness, response and recovery. He is looking forward to building on this and helping the AHA Centre team to achieve improved capacity in these areas and indeed over the broader range of project areas made accessible by LACER, while in parallel using the links created by the project to strengthen institutional ties between ASEAN bodies and their counterparts in the EU. Charles is convinced that this cooperation will provide a big boost to the overall capacity of ASEAN’s DRR/DRM strategies.
Like the MSB, each national disaster management organisation across the ASEAN region has a unique way of working and a national context in which it operates. According to Charles, this makes cooperation very complex but at the same time rewarding because each agency can contribute something special and important to the regional effort. “I am really eager and interested to expand my learning of how these national agencies undertake key functions such as preparedness and mitigation to understand their potential contribution to the regional capacity,” Charles said.
When asked what he most looks forward to in the coming weeks, he replied that he had a very hands-on approach to his work, so that above all, he was looking forward to quickly deploying to Jakarta and meeting his counterparts in the AHA Centre in person. He also wants to become more familiar with the team here and ongoing activities, as well as launching new activities under the project.
“We have a lot of exciting initiatives coming up and I am eager to roll these out together with our highly capable partners across the ASEAN region”
The father of two children, Olivier, 8, and Leah, who is still a toddler, Charles and his wife Gitu have their home base in Stockholm, but have been on the road for many years, working in humanitarian contexts such as Myanmar and Iraq. The family spent several years in Nepal, where both parents engaged in rebuilding infrastructure damaged by the devastating earthquakes of 2015. They live an active lifestyle and enjoy skiing, sailing and hiking together.
Written by : LACER Project team & Michael Hillary Hegarty | Photo Credit : AHA Centre
AN INTERNSHIP STORY OF
KNOWING IS BETTER THAN NOT KNOWING
Before proceeding to the heart of the topic, it is proper that I introduce myself. My name is Yohanes Paulus, a graduate in International Relations from International University Liaison Indonesia (IULI). I was introduced to the field of disaster management in the form of a course taken during my studies back in 2018. Our class had the chance to visit the Indonesian National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB) building in Jalan Pramuka, Jakarta, on a field trip, during which we saw the AHA Centre’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and the BNPB’s museum, and were introduced to the basics of disaster management.
In all, I am honored that I was able to contribute constructively to the AHA Centre and its activities
Three years later and the world has changed so much since that visit. I was concerned that job opportunities would shrink during the COVID-19 pandemic, and initially I did not have any specific expectations about working in disaster management when I applied to the AHA Centre.
I was delighted that my application was accepted, especially since it was not long after I graduated. Starting out as an intern, I wanted to obtain real work experience in an international setting, and to really learn in practice how international organisations work. The work was indeed very challenging but, in return, I achieved what I aimed for and much more.
In my work supporting the Humanitarian Emergency Logistics and Innovation Expo (HELiX) – held virtually in May 2021 – I discovered the complicated procedures and unique challenges in relation to connecting many disparate hosts and participants online. Technological know-how in conjunction with organisational and communication skills with fellow teammates and colleagues were the key. Having been involved in every step of the way, to see the event held successfully, with the constructive conversations and innovations that resulted from it, certainly was an unforgettable and rewarding experience.
More generally, I was also exposed to the workings of the AHA Centre and its DELSA network of warehouses for emergency supplies. I became aware of the scale at which the AHA Centre operates and the important role of its work, especially in these very uncertain times and no doubt well into the future, when humanitarian logistics and disaster responses will become increasingly important, especially in ASEAN. I saw how many of the lessons from HELiX, especially relating to clear and effective communications within organisations and the ability to efficiently manage time and tasks, are implemented on the ground. Most importantly, far from being overly focused and specialised, the experience gained from the internship also challenged me to be able to respond to any unexpected situations and needs, and to remain level-headed and alert at all times.
Complications can and do arise, and I made quite a few mistakes. Feeling intimidated or lacking confidence in one’s ability to handle the sheer scale of tasks is a normal reaction. The critical point here is not to let these difficulties prevent you from learning and adapting. Knowing is better than not knowing, and sometimes the only way to obtain knowledge is simply by doing, however imperfectly.
In all, I am honored that I was able to contribute constructively to the AHA Centre and its activities. I still have much to learn, and the experiences I gained during my time as an intern will certainly be a cherished part of my learning journey. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I wish the best for the future of the AHA Centre, especially in its 10th anniversary year.
Written by : Yohanes Paulus, DELSA Intern January to July 2021 | Photo Credit : AHA Centre
Vol 74 – EU HIGH REPRESENTATIVE H.E. JOSEP BORRELL VISITED THE AHA CENTRE TO DEEPEN RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO REGIONS IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
EU HIGH REPRESENTATIVE
H.E. JOSEP BORRELL
VISITED THE AHA CENTRE TO DEEPEN RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO REGIONS IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT
In the first visit by a VVIP after more than a year of working from home, on 3 June 2021 the AHA Centre had the honour of welcoming High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, European Union (EU) H.E. Mr. Josep Borrell.
Arriving at the AHA Centre, Mr. Borrell was welcomed by Executive Director of the AHA Centre Ms. Adelina Kamal, Deputy Executive Director Mr. Arnel Capili, and staff of the AHA Centre. During his visit, Mr. Borrell had the opportunity to see how the AHA Centre’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) works during an emergency response. Other important information about the AHA Centre’s responses and activities in disaster management in the ASEAN region was also presented.
Mr. Borrell stated that his visit to the AHA Centre was important and informative as he had the opportunity to listen to the presentation of the valuable work that was done there. “The EU continues to provide capacity building to [the] AHA [Centre] and civil protection and emergency humanitarian assistance when disasters strike,” he said after the visit.
According to him, ASEAN and the EU share the same commitment to rules-based multilateralism. This is one of the reasons why he needed to visit ASEAN in the midst of the current pandemic.
“ASEAN is the nucleus around which inclusive forms of regional cooperation are built. Regional integration is a way to safeguard our respective ‘strategic autonomy’ for both of us,” H.E. Mr. Josep Borrell
stated in his official statement published by the EU website (https://eeas.europa.eu/)
Ms. Adelina stressed the significance of Mr. Borrell’s visit to the AHA Centre. Not only because it was the first VVIP visit hosted by the AHA Centre after more than one year working from home, but also because the EU is one of the biggest supporters of the AHA Centre through the Integrated Programme in Enhancing the Capacity of the AHA Centre and ASEAN Emergency Response Mechanisms (EU SAHA) project. “EU support shaped the AHA Centre in our formative years. We look forward to working with the EU in our transformative years to come,” said Ms. Adelina.
The 45-minute visit was also attended by Ambassador of the EU to ASEAN H.E. Mr. Igor Driesmans; Mr. Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia Pacific, European External Action Service (EEAS); Mr. Nereo Penalver Garcia, Cabinet Member of the HRVP, EEAS; and Mr. Fabian Breuer, Senior Communication Advisor to HRVP, EEAS. During the visit, Mr. Borrell also discussed several important issues, including how to strengthen the partnership between the EU and the AHA Centre in disaster management and the humanitarian assistance sector.
Written by : Moch Syifa | Photo Credit : AHA Centre & europa.eu
This month The Column had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Martin Sjöholm, the Training and Exercise Expert of LACER. Martin worked as a paramedic before he joined the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) in 2000 as a medical coordinator. A member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), European Civil Protection Team (EUCPT) and the Red Cross, he has worked as a project manager in the humanitarian sector, being deployed to various disasters and humanitarian projects across the globe.
When asked why he chose to become a training and exercise expert, Mr. Martin explained that for a long time he had been engaged in training and exercises around the world and found it rewarding to see participants grow and understand the way forward. He was particularly drawn to ASEAN having previously worked there. Given the region’s propensity for disasters every year, he was as keen to learn from others as he was to teach about how different disasters should be handled. The LACER team’s enthusiasm also inspired him.
“It is rewarding to work with different partners, such as the AHA Centre and to learn their ways of working. Working as a European Civil Protection Team member around the world, I have knowledge and experience that I can share with the AHA Centre,”
For Martin, trainings and exercises are the key to achieving new ways of working and improving current practices, as participants can learn in a relatively relaxed environment, without the stress of major consequences. The most important component of the LACER project is information management. It is Marin’s belief that if the AHA Centre can be established as the main source of information during a disaster, this will have a beneficial effect in the affected country or region. Today, information travels very fast and it is essential to be on top of things when a disaster strikes and to have the right support in terms of personnel and equipment.
Martin has worked in the field for the last 15 years in disasters, conducting assessments and reporting. As a mentor for the Assessment Mission Training (AMC) in Cyprus every year he learned about how assessments should be performed, and training of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) is one of the prioritised sections he would like to work on. The ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise (ARDEX) is another priority.
As to what he hopes to achieve from the project, he emphasises mutual support.
“I hope to learn more about how the [countries in the] region support each other and how LACER can support this work to be more effective and precise,”
Implementing material and work from the European Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) into the AHA Centre is also a very important component of the project.
When not at work Martin enjoys relaxing with his wife Marie at their home outside Gothenburg in Sweden, fixing up his house and babysitting his grandchildren. As the Swedish summer approaches, he is particularly looking forward to barbecues with family and friends.
Written by : LACER team, Michael Hillary Hegarty | Photo Credit : LACER project
RINA NURHAFIZAH REZZA BINTI ABDUL RANI
The Column is pleased to feature Ms. Rina Nurhafizah Rezza Binti Abdul Rani, a member of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) from Brunei Darussalam and the current Head of Operations at the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), a position that she has held since September 2018.
The year 2020 was among the most challenging of her career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Brunei in March. The NDMC had been monitoring the outbreak since the end of 2019 and was engaged in preparation and close coordination with the Ministry of Health. From January 2020, the NDMC made plans to repatriate Bruneian students from abroad and these plans included identifying isolation venues at hotels and government facilities, and the procurement of personal protection equipment (PPE) supplies for frontline staff at land, air and sea borders.
When the coronavirus hit Brunei, the NDMC took on the role of supporting non-clinical operations with the Ministry of Health by facilitating the operations at the Ministry of Health Emergency Operation Centre (MOHEOC). From the beginning of the outbreak in Brunei until the Entry Travel Pass Portal System set up by the Prime Minister’s Office was introduced in September 2020. This involved ensuring all individuals arriving in Brunei by air, land or sea were isolated directly in their respective COVID-19 monitoring centres.
Ms. Rina was tasked with monitoring all non-clinical operations. Brunei had experienced pandemics before, including the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, but policies and procedures were rapidly amended and new ones introduced as a result of the dynamics, challenges and need for damage control throughout the operation. Also taking into consideration other countries’ experiences, many changes were made in order to ensure that best practices were implemented. Brunei fully optimised the government’s whole-nation approach with all government and non-government agencies providing full support in their respective roles.
She has been with the NDMC since 2009. However, her career was mostly spent at the planning and analysis division. She admits that sitting in the operations division has been a major challenge for her, but her knowledge and expertise in training and project management, related to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and resilience, have been invaluable in her current position.
Ms Rina is also a graduate of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme. During her time on the ACE Programme, she received the ACE Most Valuable Player 2019 Award together with two colleagues for consistently demonstrating high levels of engagement and great initiative in collaborating effectively.
She says that her ACE training was a great inspiration during the pandemic. She remembers a message from H.E. Jo Tyndal, New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore, in a Leader’s Talk session while she was in ACE, “One of the important things for a leader is leading with kindness – to lead with patience, empathy and respect for other people. Kindness is not about naivety or weakness, it is about strength.” This message gave encouragement to her, especially during the most difficult times managing the pandemic.
“It was a very difficult period, but I am glad that I was there with the rest of the coordinators and frontliners working together. There were times where we were really exhausted, worn out, but with good leadership and teaming up with high-spirited people and the support given to each other, we managed to do it together and plant in our minds that achieving our ultimate objective in ensuring the safety of our nation was the most important thing for all of us. To date, Alhamdulillah, Brunei has already passed one year with no local transmissions,” she said.
Since graduating from the ACE Programme, Ms Rina has continued on her career within the NDMC. She has also taken an active role in representing the NDMC in the meetings of the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), including serving as an ASEAN-ERAT advisory member and representing the NDMC at the meeting of the Working Group for Preparedness, Response and Recovery.
Talking about her hopes for the future, she hopes that ASEAN can stand united, and be able to achieve its objective of continuously and proactively creating a safe, adaptive, inclusive and disaster-resilient region, and fulfilling its motto of One ASEAN One Response.
Written by : Hillary Michael Hegarty | Photo Credit : Theophilus Yanuarto
Communication and information are integral elements of disaster management, and are becoming even more important as the digital era expands. This month we speak with Theophilus Yanuarto in his role as the Supervisor for Disaster Communication and Publications, in the Data, Information and Disaster Communication Centre of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB).
One of the alumni from batch 2 (2015) of the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme, Mr Yanuarto explained the programme’s impact and influence on his career since his graduation. “I felt it was a very comprehensive programme that provided disaster management analysis and knowledge capabilities, including enhancing our skills in some activities”, he explained. “This programme greatly increased my capacity in various contexts, such as related to risk communication, incident command system, international humanitarian system, logistics. It also not only strengthens relations between countries but can contribute to my organisation and other relevant organisations focusing on disaster management.”
Mr Yanuarto is also a member of the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ERAT), and explains how his engagement in disaster responses has resulted in relevant learning for his overall work. “I learned many things when involved in emergency management in the region, ranging from the characteristics of the disaster, how the government responds, working in teams of members from several countries.” Mr Yanuarto also highlights the feeling of togetherness experienced during his role supporting the emergency response to Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines in 2018. “I was warmly received while at NDRRMC and communicating with colleagues there. I also saw the positive dynamics between the people working in the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) when responding to the Typhoon Mangkhut.”
Currently, Mr Yanuarto’s role with the BNPB sees him responsible for the publicity of disasters in Indonesia. “The forms of publication can be text, audio, or video” he explained, “and are very useful for local disaster management agencies in terms of public communication in disaster-affected areas”. Within this, however, Mr Yanuarto can identify ongoing challenges that are part of disaster communication – in particular gaps between national and local-level communication capacities. “In the context of disasters, the media usually relies on information from the national level”, he explained. “However, the speed of information delivered from the affected area – information urgently needed by the community, including the media – remains a challenge.”
Looking ahead, Mr Yanuarto has high hopes for disaster management across the ASEAN region, and recognises the importance in regional cooperation in the face of disaster. “I hope the vision of One ASEAN One Response can be the catalyst for government policy related to receiving assistance from ASEAN countries”, he said.
“Each ASEAN nation has experience in disaster management – especially in the context of local knowledge – and sharing of such knowledge can enrich disaster management among ASEAN Member States.”
Written by : Moch Syifa, William Shea | Photo Credit : Theophilus Yanuarto
MARY ANN SARAH CRUZ ULAT
This volume we catch-up with AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme alumni Mary Ann Sarah Cruz Ulat (Sarah) from the Philippines National Disaster Management Organisation. Sarah took us through her work in the disaster management sector, her engagement in the ACE Programme and other ASEAN regional initiatives, and her experiences responding to disaster over recent years.
Sarah is currently the Head of the Operational Coordination (OpsCoord) Section of the Response and Operational Coordination Division, Operations Service, Office of Civil Defense Central Office (OCD CO). The Office of Civil Defense is the executive arm of the Philippine’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Her team sits on the strategic and policy-making level, with the OpsCoord Section primary responsible for the formulation of policies, plans, programmes and standards related to operations activities and response initiatives. She has been part of the OCD for almost six years, and holds an array of interesting and challenging experiences as a result.
As her role is a relatively new one, Sarah highlights a number of challenges and changes that she is currently facing and adjusting to within the work. “Time challenges are many, as are the challenges of mobility and accessibility in a nation like the Philippines”, Sarah explains. “I also recognise the need for people to integrate different levels within disaster response”, she says, but follows by acknowledging these challenges are a common experience in disaster management regardless of one’s position.
Sarah highlights the ACE Programme as one of the defining milestones in her career to this date, and stated that it forms a key element of her ongoing learning journey in the disaster management field. “It developed both personal and professional aspects of my work”, Sarah remembers, “it allowed me to better myself, gain friends, and experience new things while also gaining technical knowledge on various tools and mechanisms, and being exposed to the international sector”. Sarah considers the ACE Programme as an opportunity to develop relationships that can be used in building resilience. “Learning is a journey and so is resilience” she states. “This couldn’t be more emphasised than throughout the ACE Programme, as it helped us develop our competency in leading emergency and disaster situations through shared theories and practices. Bearing in mind that the core of what we do is for the people, from saving lives and reducing human suffering during disaster, to the improvement of the community’s quality of life by building resilience within yourself and the community you are working with.”
Sarah’s experiences responding to disasters also continue to define her career journey, although she hasn’t been engaged in a response since completing the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) course in 2019. “As part of organising the Philippine humanitarian mission to Indonesia to extend assistance to the affected population of the Palu, Central Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami in 2018, I realised the importance of policies and plans being formulated and implemented in preparation for events like this”, Sarah says. “This then creates an enabling environment for a more unimpeded and timely response, even in a trans-boundary operation.”
Sarah also draws on her academic background in environmental planning and human ecology when looking at the disaster management scenarios, and highlights the importance of strong local governance and community engagement as the major contributing factors to achieve resiliency.
“Participatory and inclusive approaches are key in preparing and implementing people-centred and community-driven development and DRRM plans. Communities tend to be collectively unique, requiring a unique approach in collaborating with them also. We must try to build connection, relationship, and trust with the communities; dipping your fingers into the water will enable you to better understand and relate.”
Finally, Sarah talks of the importance and context of ASEAN for disaster management, and recognises that ASEAN nations can capitalise on relationships, promote togetherness, and learn from each other regarding disaster.
“I envision that disaster risk reduction and management (DRR) is embedded in everybody’s way of life, and there is a sense of common responsibility. Starting with a strong foundation of community-based disaster risk reduction and management. A collective effort towards a more holistic, inclusive and sustainable DRR in ASEAN can result in a region that is more proactive when it comes to disaster management.”
Written by : Moch Syifa, William Shea | Photo Credit : AHA Centre
This month we spent some time chatting with another AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme alumni and ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team (ASEAN-ERAT) member Palida Puapun, who is also a staff member of Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM).
To begin, Ms Puapun explained more about her current role with the DDPM, where she is based out of Regional Centre 5 Nakhonratchasima. “I work as a planning and policy analyst within our centre that is responsible for four provinces across north-eastern Thailand” Ms Puapun told us.
“I play a role to advocate public policy in terms of sustainable development of mechanisms on science and technology in disaster management.”
Ms Puapun also highlights the importance of data and technology in disaster management, and explains the importance of scientific integration with social elements as part of more efficient public policy. “I am especially trying to achieve policy on open government data as well as utilising shared data for monitoring and tracking flood and drought at multiple levels of government”, she explains. “I am devoted to develop mechanisms and collaborate among government agencies because I strongly believe that strong governance contributes heavily in keeping communities safe from disaster, therefore increasing overall community wellbeing.”
Asked about the influence of the ACE Programme on her career, Ms Puapun is full of praise. “The ACE Programme enhanced all dimensions of my skills – not only my technical skills, but also experience in areas of leadership as well”, she remembers. “Moreover, the ACE Programme provided specialist mentoring, and engaged a young generation of leaders across the ASEAN region, allowing younger generations to ensure positive engagement and change on a regional level.” Additionally, Ms Puapun has also further applied her skills and leadership in her current role, and has learnt much from being an active ASEAN-ERAT member. “I am involved in flood and drought management activities in north-eastern Thailand, as my area is located on the upper-streams of Mun-river and Chi-River, which are branches of the Mekong river basin that faces frequent flood and drought across the ASEAN region.” Ms Puapun explains further, “I advocate the use of aerial photo and satellite imagery analysis, and elucidate the importance of three-dimensional digital mapping technology for flood forecasting and hydrological runoff models, tracking the disaster situation, and also initially assessing damage and needs of affected people during emergency events”.
In closing an insightful chat, Ms Puapun talks further about her hopes for the ASEAN region in disaster management. “I hope that ASEAN can drive plans and policies that focus more on prevention, mitigation and the reduction of risk of disaster, as these actions can reduce the impact of adverse events”, she says, before continuing to explain that “the ASEAN system is also key for increasing the standard of resilience of infrastructure, eco-systems and communities, which is an important strand of disaster risk management work”.
“Knowledge and data sharing is also imperative, and allows us to work in transparency and clarity across disaster management throughout our ASEAN region.”
Written by : Moch Syifa, William Shea | Photo : AHA Centre