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Uniting South Asia for Enhanced Readiness and Anticipatory Action: Highlights from the SNAP South Asia Program Launch and Policy Dialogue

Uniting South Asia for Enhanced Readiness and Anticipatory Action: Highlights from the SNAP South Asia Program Launch and Policy Dialogue

13 - 14 Dec 2023

Colombo, Sri Lanka


Colombo, Sri Lanka, became the center for South Asia's disaster preparedness initiatives on 13-14 December 2023 with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) launching the regional program on “Sustainable National Anticipatory Actions through Preparedness (SNAP) in South Asia” in collaboration with the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Hosted by the Disaster Management Center (DMC) Sri Lanka, the workshop drew vital decision makers and senior disaster management practitioners from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka representing the National Disaster Management Organizations, Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies, civil society organizations, and national response agencies.

 


Figure 1: Head of the country delegation from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka representing NDMOs together with ADPC, USAID and BMGF

 

Key dignitaries inaugurated the meeting led by General G.D.H. Kamal Gunaratne (Retd), Secretary, Ministry of Defense, emphasizing the importance of meaningful collaboration between Sri Lanka and SAARC countries and the continued support by ADPC, Bill, and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), USAID, and other stakeholders in building disaster management capabilities and disaster-resilient communities in the region.

 

Mr. Dustin Shiau, the Regional Director of South and Central Asia conveyed a message on behalf of USAID-BHA, emphasizing the long-term support provided to countries in responding to disasters and crises in the South Asia region. This support includes completing the Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER), which establishes a solid foundation for countries to launch sustainable training programs and systems for emergency response.

 

Dr. Sisira Madurapperuma, Director of Preparedness for Response and Recovery from ADPC shared his insights into the historical evolution of Anticipatory Actions and emphasized the dynamic nature of anticipatory action strategies. He called for further dialogue with an open mind in the current disaster preparedness and response ecosystem to find context-specific solutions and actions.



Figure 2: Gen. G.D.H. Kamal Gunaratne (Retd) Secretary Ministry of Defense Sri Lanka on his opening remarks


Figure 3: Mr. Dustin Shiau, Regional Director for South and Central Asia, USAID-BHA delivering his opening message.


Figure 4: Lt. Gen Inam Haider Malik, Chairman, NDMA Pakistan sharing experiences in implementing DRR programs in the country.
 

The comprehensive discussions included an overview of SNAP South Asia and the background of Anticipatory Action, exchanging best practices in disaster management, highlighting crucial interventions, and bolstering regional cooperation. Each country shared unique strategies for emergency preparedness and anticipatory action, highlighting the roles of community volunteers, disaster response systems, and sustainable training.

Distinguished speakers from various South Asian countries shared their strategies and experiences during the event. Md. Shahjahan, representing the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), emphasized the importance of community-led initiatives. He discussed how anticipatory action evolved in Bangladesh with strong government engagement. At the same time, Col. Kirti Pratap Singh and Mr. Narendra Singh Bundela from India highlighted the critical role of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in responding to disasters and its various capacity-building initiatives based on the PEER Program. Dr. Rizwan Naseer acknowledged the contribution of the PEER Program in developing Rescue 1122 in Pakistan, making it the first INSARAG-accredited team in South Asia. Emergency Services has saved countless lives during emergencies and established a sustainable training system through the Emergency Services Academy. Additionally, Mr. Sagar Shrestha of the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) highlighted the role of community volunteers like CADRE's role in anticipatory action in Nepal.


The road ahead, however, is challenging. Speakers underscored the difficulties in implementing anticipatory actions, such as financial constraints, data management issues, and the need for strengthened national preparedness. Among the proposed solutions were unlocking existing financial regulations to support proactive interventions, developing data infrastructure, and integrating anticipatory actions into national disaster management systems and plans. The new SNAP South Asia Program will work with countries to find sustainable solutions and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise to enhance regional cooperation on preparedness and early action.

 


Figure 5: SNAP South Asia participants engaging in cooperation exercise

 


Figure 6: Participants and guests in the SNAP South Asia Program Launch and Policy Dialogue

 


The launch of the SNAP South Asia Program is another milestone highlighting the importance of advancing disaster preparedness and anticipatory action across South Asia, and the event ended with a joint commitment to enhancing resilience and disaster readiness through collaboration and proactive planning. Participants stressed the necessity for ongoing partnership and proactive measures, underscoring that united efforts are the key to facing the challenges of managing disaster risks in the region. The changing climate and increasing vulnerabilities of communities make it imperative to work together. This event represents a turning point in regional disaster management, setting a precedent for future collaborative efforts in South Asia.