UNICEF, NEC to work on public health risk response
Dimapur, Sep. 25 (EMN): A consultative forum to promote health sector preparedness for response in the Northeast states is underway. The North Eastern Council (NEC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with Oxfam India will be supporting the Northeast states in strengthening their plans to prepare for and respond to public health risks during emergencies.
A two-day regional consultation of the NEC, the UNICEF and the Oxfam India began on September 25, updates stated. The objective of the consultations was to deliberate on regional strategies for public health preparedness for response in the Northeast region, updates informed.
The government publicity agency the department of Information and Public Relations (IPR) issued on Sep. 25 updates about the meeting.
In his keynote address, the NEC’s planning advisor, 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 Northeast for the health sector, including shortage of trained manpower, access to sparsely populated remote and far flung areas, and governance.”
“This consultation is a milestone and I look forward to the discussions and recommendations for NEC to take forward when planning for emergency preparedness of the health sector.”
Kharshiing said that the strength of the Northeast 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.”
A former member of the central government’s NDMA, Muzzaffar Ahmad, also gave his views.
“Given the projections, the health sector in the NE needs to take multi-sectoral (sic) measures based on forecasts instead of waiting for the actual disasters for reducing and adapting to existing and emerging risks, and be better-able to respond to impending emergencies,” said Ahmad.
According to the updates, the regional consultation is an effort to promote health sector preparedness for response in the states. Under the initiative, the NEC and UNICEF in collaboration with Oxfam India will support the Northeast states to strengthen their plans to prepare for and respond to public health risks during emergencies as well as in public health emergencies.
According to Dr. Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of Field Office at UNICEF, “There are four non-negotiable components that we need to focus upon, together, 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.”
The technical and thematic sessions during the two-day consultation will be attended by a number of stakeholders from four states, the updates stated. Officials include secretaries/MDs of state NHM, Health and Family Welfare, Disaster Management, Public Health Engineering department, State Planning Board and sector experts, the IPR stated.
Further, the IPR stated that the consultations 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 Northeast region.
“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 framework),” the IPR stated.
Pankaj Anand, Oxfam India’s programme director talked about the phases of work.
“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 NE states, and subsequent technical assistance will be provided to implement those plans.”