Regional consultation on health preparedness in NE underway

SHILLONG, Sep 24: A two-day regional consultation was kicked-off today by North East Council (NEC) and UNICEF in collaboration with Oxfam India.

The objective of the consultation is to deliberate on a Regional Strategy for Public Health Preparedness for Response in the North East.

In his keynote address, Planning Advisor, NEC, Calvin H. Kharshiing said, “We are living in an age of multiplicity of natural disasters and there are unique challenges in the context of the North East for the health sector including shortage of trained manpower, access to sparsely populated remote and far flung areas, and governance.”

Kharshiing said that this consultation is a milestone and he looks forward to the discussions and recommendations for NEC to take forward when planning for emergency preparedness of the health sector.

He further added, “The strength of the North-East is its local communities as a lot of work in the times of emergencies is done by them. It will be imperative to include them when planning and programming.”

Dr Muzzaffar Ahmad, Former Member, NDMA, said that given the projections, the health sector in the northeast needs to take multi-sectoral measures based on forecasts instead of waiting for the actual disasters for reducing and adapting to existing and emerging risks, and be better-abled to respond to impending emergencies.

The regional consultation is an effort to promote health sector preparedness for response in the NE states. Under this initiative, NEC and UNICEF in collaboration with Oxfam India will support the NE states to strengthen their plans to prepare for and respond to public health risks in emergencies as well as in public health emergencies.

Meanwhile, Dr Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF said that there are four non-negotiable components that one need to focus upon, as a team.

“Firstly, preparedness for emergencies, since during normal conditions public health services can be stretched thin. Secondly, quality programming and standards to coordinate and align emergency response efforts in health, child protection, nutrition, communication and water sanitation and hygiene. Thirdly, linking humanitarian response to development. And lastly, coordination and partnerships,” Jonathan said.

The consultation will aim to help build an understanding of the common frameworks applied to disaster preparedness in the public health sector, and on the existing and emerging public health risks in the NE. It will also be an opportunity to throw light on the current initiatives, guidelines, gaps and health needs of the states to undertake preparedness actions (these discussions will be aligned to UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Actions (CCCs) framework).

Moreover, Pankaj Anand, Oxfam India’s Programme Director said, “As part of the first phase of the intervention, efforts will be made to develop a regional strategy primarily focusing on Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura and Assam, which will be supplemented through state-level public health sector plans by the respective states. Based on their experiences, the same will be extended to other northeastern states, and subsequent technical assistance will be provided to implement those plans.”

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