The United Nations opened a four-day pandemic preparedness exercise today in South-East Asia with the aim of boosting the region’s capacity to handle such an event.
The organizers say that the exercise, taking place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, marks the first time that multiple nations have united to simulate the effects of a pandemic on different sectors of an entire region’s essential services.
“This event provides the opportunity to bring the multi-sector preparedness focus to a regional level” and to set a global example, said Nhim Vanda, a senior disaster management official with the Cambodian Government.
The exercise is designed to study how an outbreak, and the resulting high absenteeism, would impact several essential services simultaneously, especially energy, transport and health care. It will simulate a communicable disease emergency on the fictional continent of Pandemica, which has five countries with similar economic and infrastructural conditions to South-East Asia.
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, as well as the UN and other humanitarian organizations, will take part. Participants will spend four days responding to fictional reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the pandemic’s escalation.
The UN is co-hosting the exercise with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). UN agencies and offices, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and WHO, will also take part.