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Mr. Sombath Douangsavanh is the Deputy Director of the Disaster Preparedness and Response Division, Social Welfare Department, of the Lao PDR Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (Lao PDR’s National Disaster Management Organisation – NDMO). He works primarily as the ASEAN and International Cooperation National Programme Coordinator in the Integrated Programme for Climate Resilience and Empowerment, based in Attapeu province, Lao PDR.

Mr. Sombath took some time out this month to answer questions from the AHA Centre relating to his work, his experience with the AHA Centre programmes, and the overall disaster management context for Lao PDR.

When asked about the challenges he faces in his current position, Mr. Sombath identified the uniqueness of working in the middle-level management. “On the middle management level, most of our work is more on technical-focused, however as the Social Welfare Department acts as the Secretariat of Central Disaster Management Committee, that work is more focused on monitoring disaster management implementation, meaning we have a broad area of skills to encompass” he explained. “Additionally, leading the ASEAN and International Cooperation Emergency Operation Centre, I also have had to increase my knowledge and skills related to such things as situation analysis’, GIS remote sensing, and data management.”

Mr. Sombath also highlighted that he has strengthened many of his skills and experiences through engagement with the AHA Centre over the years. He identifies his participation in the AHA Centre Executive (ACE) Programme as a key moment in his career. “The ACE Programme provided very comprehensive knowledge and skills from basics of disaster management, understanding the ASEAN context, UN and Red Cross mechanisms and specific skills, and also engaged us in the ASEAN-ERAT and other leadership efforts” he recalled. Mr. Sombath also believes it was these such engagements that have supported his career progression to this point, stating that “by having this kind of support and engagement, I have been promoted to a higher position, and utilise the knowledge gathered from ACE to manage my tasks and my team”. “Also, when a disaster situation arises, my skills can be used to support the emergency response effort”, Mr. Sombath said.

Mr. Sombath values learning and reflection both individually and with his wider team, and believes that networking and partnerships are the most important part of strong disaster management. He also has great hopes for the ASEAN region to continue its progression in all aspects of disaster management, and that the ASEAN mechanisms continue to strengthen and are effectively applied in disaster management across the region and also outside. Mr. Sombath finishes with a reminder to all disaster managers about the importance of complete and all-encompassing disaster management activities, and the importance that such activities are fully supported.

“We never hope disaster happens, however, to be better prepared, ASEAN Member State governments must continue to invest more on all disaster risk reduction efforts – not only response, but preparedness and recovery as well.”


Written by : Moch Syifa | Photo : Mr. Sombath Douangsavanh