Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bird and Human Influenza Prevention and Management and the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy

17th March 2009

Today, it is my great honor and pleasure to participate with you all in the Launching Ceremony of Bird and Human Influenza Prevention and Management Project and the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy.

On behalf of the Royal Government and my own behalf, I would like to express my profound gratitude to the International Development Association (IDA), the government of Japan, European Union as we as the World Bank for providing grant for bird and human influenza prevention and management project. My appreciation also direct to the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) and Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) for providing their supports for the establishment of the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy 2008-2013.

At the same time, I also would like to thank the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health and the National Committee for Disaster Management for making joint efforts to successfully facilitate the agreement on cooperation grant for bird and human influenza prevention and management project. I would like to convey my compliment to the inter-ministerial technical working group for preparing the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy 2008-2013 by paying particular focus on capacity building on the prevention, preparation and response to bird and human influenza, which make Cambodia a safe place to live.

Indeed, Cambodia’s integrated national plan for bird and human influenza had been released on the 23rd July 2007, and was necessarily designed to respond to the need of prevention and response to the rapid widespread of bird influenza, especially the H5N1 virus and the possibility of a universal spread of such disease.

Apparently, the Launching of Bird and Human Influenza Prevention and Management Project and the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy is the clear evidence of the willingness, high determination and attention of Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who come from related ministries/institutions, local authorities of all levels and development partners. What is to be proud of is that we have good cooperation between the Ministry Of Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries, the Ministry Of Health, the National Committee For Disaster Management and ministries/institutions concerned, local authorities and development partners including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in playing leading roles on behalf of the UN system in Cambodia in supporting the implementation of the National Strategy for the prevention and management of bird influenza. At the same time, in preparing for the universal widespread of human influenza, the Ministry Of Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries had taken measures to monitor and preventing the bird-to-bird infection, and eradicating such disease among animal population, and the Ministry of Health also conducted survey on the animal-to-human transmission, and seeking for the infection cases on human being for timely treatment and taking preventive measures against accidental communication. Besides, the National Committee for Disaster Management who is tasked to facilitate the inter-ministerial coordination to prepare for the universal widespread of the influenza also adopted the preventive and responsive measures to the universal infectious disease at the sub-national level and piloted it in Siem Reap province. This is the proof which clearly reflects the ownership and leadership of Cambodia on the issue.

I would like to highlight that the bird flu is not a simple and ordinary matter, from the worldwide experience including the universal widespread of the outbreak in 1918 and its repeated occurrences in 1997 in Hong Kong, for instance, we learned that millions of people’s lives had been lost, enormous labor force had been destroyed, private and public services had been shut down, public order and security had been threatened, and finally the whole socio-economy had been jeopardized.

In this context, the occurrence of bird flu in neighboring countries and across the world signifies the global outbreak of this disease and it requires us to pay a very close attention to prevent further outbreak of such disease otherwise it will claim more human lives and have a severe consequence on the society and economy. In this sense, our only pro-active strategy on hand is the preparation of the inter-sectoral response plan for addressing and rehabilitating the situation before, during and after the crisis.

What Cambodia has been doing is a step forward in its attempts at responding to the above scenario. Unflinching determination, skillfulness and joint efforts are all the requisites for realizing those plans. Bird flu can become a cause of calamity, especially when it can spread between human and human and becomes a global outbreak.

Along with this, it should be noted that bird flu is not the only sign of disaster risk in our community, but other signs such as flood, drought, fire, storm, and other incidences, especially the consequences of climate change are a great concern and still require our attention. We all have acknowledged that disasters can ruin development progress, human lives and the standard of living and make more people slip into poverty. Therefore, although Cambodia has not experienced major disasters over the last few years such as the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, earthquake in Pakistan, Katrina hurricane in the US and so forth, this small country faced both drought and disaster before- and after the year 2000 which caused a lot of damages and impeded socio-economic development. In consequence, this impeded the effort of the people and Royal Government in reducing poverty incidence and hindered the pace of development.

Reducing the risk of disaster still represents an important tool to increase the effectiveness of disaster management. We still regard disaster management as a part of poverty reduction and achieving sustainable growth. In this sense, reducing the risk of disasters covers all sectors and most ministries are required to embed disaster reduction measures into their development strategies.

Therefore, the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy is our joint work plan; we should not see it as the sole responsibility of a specific governmental agency or institution, all related ministries/institutions have a representative in the working group tasked to formulate the national action plan. In this spirit, following the dissemination, all related ministries/institutions must fulfill their duties and implement this action plan seriously on the basis of the Rectangular Strategy Stage-Phase II.

Indeed, we have ensured successful and effective responses to disasters such as flood and drought, thanks to the participation of the Cambodia Red Cross, bodyguard units, military units, military police units, national police, ministries/institutions, NGOs, associations, monks, donors, and members of community. Through this, we acknowledge that disaster management is not only a big responsibility, we also lack the mechanisms and resources to implement and respond proportionately to the actual magnitude of the task. Therefore, I have recently instructed the National Committee for Disaster Management to lead an inter-ministerial working group to draft the Law on Disaster Management in order to provide guidelines on the successful implementation of a “Modern Management Approach”.

Without any doubt, disaster management is a highly challenging job since it involves human lives; a single institution cannot guarantee success; it requires the support from many related institutions on the basis of their specialization. Furthermore, disaster management requires motivation, efforts, and capacity building including the arrangement of legal system, structure, and inter-ministerial mechanism to coordinate with national community, UN agencies, international NGOs and international communities in order to prevent, lessen the magnitude of and respond to possible incidences.

Also, we should also note that disaster management, in the past, appeared to be conducted separately among competent institutions. From now on, this job must be implemented on the basis of joint vision, joint strategy, joint integration plan and clear target; all related ministries/institutions must increase inter-sectoral and inter-institutional cooperation to deal with all aspects of disasters, including pre-, current- and post-disaster management.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a number of key factors which require all stakeholders’ attention for preventing and managing bird and human influenza as well as reducing the disastrous risk as follows:

1. In the name of the central coordinating institution for disaster management, the National Committee for Disaster Management must closely coordinate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as the development partners, especially the World Bank in order to implement the project on the “management and prevention of bird and human influenza” more effectively in which:

- The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries must continue to put more effort into extending activities in the area of bird health through educating, observing and preventing the spread of infectious diseases from animal to animal and eliminating bird flue among animal population.

- The Ministry of Health must continue to cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in promoting the education and making observation on the infection cases of bird flue which spread from animal to human and from human to human by preventing and curing timely the new cases identified. Along with that, we must establish an institution which is responsible for preparing emergency plans for the danger relating to public health that might be caused by the H5N1 virus or any other new virus, which could spread globally. The important issue is the regional and international cooperation. At the international level, the World Health Organization whom Cambodia is also a member has been preparing the international standard of infectious disease, which is the international law on infectious disease to be implemented by all member states. However, in order to be able to implement this project, all member states have to create their own appropriate laws and national policies. In this sense, the Ministry of Health must cooperate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the National Committee for Disaster Management, related Institutions and Development Partners in order to urgently prepare the laws on infectious disease for Cambodia in an attempt to ensure the legality of its implementation.

- The National Committee for Disaster Management must make use, fine tune and disseminate those lessons and experiences from the process of preparing the inter-sectoral response plan for universal epidemic, which has been tested in Siem Reap, to the local communities and extend to other provinces, especially those located along the border as well as centralizing its action plan to the national level in order to prepare emergency responses.

- The Ministry of Economy and Finance must continue to provide further effort in coordinating and cooperating closely with the World Bank and all the executing agencies in order to ensure that the existing fund has been properly and timely used with transparency, accountability, efficiency in the context and condition of disaster management and emergency response.

- All related government’s ministries and institutions must play intervening role during the emergency period; especially the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Interior have to be ready in preparing and implementing the rescue plan through the coordination of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

- All levels of local authorities, related ministries and institutions have to increase their cooperation to prevent the import of eggs and birds from foreign countries and must put in place strict measures along all border gates with the neighboring countries.

2. The Ministry of Planning must help the National Committee for Disaster Management to ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy as follows:

  • Prepare for stakeholders the achievement indicators for measuring the progress on the improvement of disaster risk reduction through development policy.

  • Decentralize the responsibility for reducing the disaster risk as well as responding to the implementation at the provincial, district, municipal, commune/sangkat levels and introducing the preparation of action plan for the management of disaster into the development plan.

  • Gender issue is the core of the Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy and its implementation, therefore we have to appropriately set the basic standard by protecting the women’s and men’s roles as leaders of disaster management in order to make sure that the communities are safe and capable of dealing with various signs of danger.

Before ending and once again, I would like to thank and appeal to friend countries, financial institutions, United Nations, international organizations and development partners to continue and provide further spiritual, material, and financial contribution such as knowledge, experience and technical expertise for the common cause of disaster risk reduction.

Finally, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the four Gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

May I now announce the launching of the project onBird and Human Influenza Prevention and Management and the National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy”!


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