Plenary Session on Integrating Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness into Disaster Risk Reduction in Sri Lanka

A plenary session titled ‘Integrating Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness into Disaster Risk Reduction’ was held virtually as part of the International Symposium on Multi-hazard Early Warning and Disaster Risk Reduction on 15th December 2020 from 4: 30 pm to 6pm. The symposium was a joint collaboration between State Ministry of Defence, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Sri Lanka; Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka and Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield, UK together with several other partner universities, partner UN agencies, Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA], Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre [ADPC] and other partner agencies. Taking into account the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, said plenary session facilitated a discussion on the relevance and importance of Disaster Reduction Planning in biological hazard contexts.

The session was chaired by Dr. Nishara Fernando, Senior Lecturer, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka while Prof. Dilanthi Amaratunga, Director, Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield, UK; Dr. Hemantha Herath, Deputy Director General of Public Health Services, Sri Lanka; Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe, Director General, Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka and Dr. Chandana Siriwardana, Senior Lecturer, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka contributed to the session as panellists. Several key recommendations were made during the presentations made by the panellists, some of which highlighted the importance of accounting for cascading socio-economic effects of pandemics, the need for the health sector to be part of a multi-sectoral partnership alliance, possibility of utilizing Early Warning infrastructure to improve preparedness for biological hazards and the need to emulate a multi-hazard approach to pandemic preparedness to effectively counter parallel hazards.

A joint presentation was also made by the project researchers: Naduni Jayasinghe from the Social Policy Analysis and Research Centre, University of Colombo and Ravindu Jayasekara from Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa Sri Lanka. The presentation outlined key strengths and gaps pertaining to stakeholder participation, planning and policing targeting biological hazards in Sri Lanka.

A detailed summary of the facts and arguments presented in this plenary session were published as a position paper titled ‘The Integration of Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness in Disaster Risk Reduction Planning in Sri Lanka’ authored by Prof. Dilanthi Amaratunga, Prof. Richard Haigh, Dr. Nishara Fernando, Ms. Naduni Jayasinghe, Dr. Chandana Siriwardana and Mr. Ravindu Jayasekara.