Laos, UN prepare for better emergency response

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Humanitarian groups from the government, the United Nations and international civil society organisations met last week to discuss gaps in national crisis response and ways to overcome them. 

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), as the Logistic Cluster lead organisation, works closely with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to enhance disaster preparedness through logistics.

As the lead agency, WFP acts as the provider of last resort when necessary, ensuring that humanitarian actors have access to the common logistics services they need to carry out their important work.

According to the WFP, to mark World Humanitarian Day, which is observed each year on August 19 to honour aid workers who risk their lives for others daily, and to rally support for people suffering from crises, a week-long chain of activities is taking place in Vientiane.

The purpose of this is to establish a streamlined and coordinated system of logistics for disaster response.

A workshop took place to map out the current logistics emergency response capacity in Laos and identify needs and potential solutions, as well as setting up a network and work plan for logistics preparedness.

As a next step, a desktop simulation exercise will be conducted to prioritise the tools, infrastructure and training that are needed to address existing gaps.

The activities continued with a training of trainers on mobile storage units, which are essentially temporary warehouses with the capacity to store and sort food supplies and relief items, as well as act as emergency shelters if needed.

Such storage units are essential tools for disaster response, since difficult terrain and poor road infrastructure make road transport time-consuming, particularly in the monsoon season.

Participants from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Lao People’s Army, the Lao Red Cross and the World Food Programme learned how to assemble and determine the best location for these storage units in case they need to be rapidly deployed in emergencies.

Those trained in Vientiane will deliver the training in provinces that are most impacted by seasonal flooding.

The World Food Programme handed over two mobile storage units of 320 square metres in size to the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

WFP and the ministry have a network of 11 units in total spread across five provinces of Laos, positioned in locations strategically important in case of emergencies.

WFP Country Director and Representative, Jan Delbaere, said “We can learn from the heavy flooding events in Sanamxay dis-trict in 2018. WFP supported the government in responding to the disaster, with general support from donors.”

“The mobile storage units we are handing over today will empower provincial authorities to save lives, and the network of logistics preparedness will help deliver essential relief items quickly and efficiently.” 

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