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Major Pandemic Preparation Drills Underway in Cambodia

Disaster preparedness experts from around the region are gathered in Cambodia this week to undertake exercises for an imagined pandemic or other calamities.

More than 170 participants are practicing emergency responses for a global disease outbreak, major typhoon, nuclear device detonation—and even a meteor strike.

Any of those would require a major response with collaboration between nation's. The major focus is on pandemic.

“The exercise is very important for Cambodia and Asean countries to know and understand an emergency response to a possible outbreak of a pandemic disease,” Sok Touch, directory of the Ministry of Health's communicable disease department, told VOA Khmer on the sidelines of the a meeting in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

“The exercise provides us with the knowhow on preparing a strategic plan and measures to prevent, to protect and treat a pandemic disease and on how to prepare a plan for requesting help from the international community, such as medical personnel, security, logistics, shelt and transportation,” he said.

If a pandemic were to hit Cambodia, he said, the first response would be emergency containment of an affected area. But Cambodia would not be able to prevent an outbreak 100 percent, he said, and would need other countries to have prepared as well.

“We need a real security force to ensure the assistance of transportation to affected areas, and the pandemic preparedness plan provides for services of protection and treatment as people fall ill,” he said.

During Wednesday's discussion, Andrew Bates, a US military contractor, described “capability-based planning,” which “assigns emergency support functions to each scenario such as medical, security, logistics, shelter, etc. Each capability will have a universal task list that is an inventory of equipment and personnel to accomplish the tasks.”

“The national target capabilities look at large scale response needs,” he said. “Local authorities focus on local responses, like firefighting and public safety.”

Each capability supports emergency function, he said, “like medical, shelter or transportation. The multi-sectored roles support the national lead pandemic agency, the Ministry of Health and the national disaster committee, as well as liaison with neighboring militaries, multinational forces and the United Nations invited organizations.”