Disaster management crucial even as Asean tackles Covid-19: Minister

Asean countries must maintain their efforts on the disaster management front even as they tackle the challenges of Covid-19, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

He added that new and better disaster management and risk reduction capabilities were needed, noting that there has been a high number of climate-related disasters around the world.

The majority of the 389 recorded disaster events last year were climate-related, he said, affecting almost 100 million people globally and leading to economic losses of over US$170 billion (S$230 billion).

He said at the 9th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management (AMMDM) that efforts are being made to enhance disaster management, citing a memorandum of intent in May signed between the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management and the Temasek Foundation.

The scope of the cooperation is broad, he said, and includes developing and promoting innovations and new technologies in disaster management and developing resilient recovery programmes in the aftermath of a disaster.

Singapore is the chair of this year's AMMDM, an annual meeting of the Asean ministers overseeing disaster management in their countries, and of the Asean Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM).

Mr Shanmugam said at the virtual meeting: "The 8th AMMDM was held online in November last year. Since then, Covid-19 vaccines have been rolled out in Asean and worldwide. Managing this pandemic remains a great challenge, not least due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant.

"While we deal with the pandemic at the same time, we nevertheless still need to make sure that our disaster management response remains ready."

He cited the example of how the ACDM was mobilised to provide assistance to Myanmar in August. The country underwent a military coup in February.

More than US$9 million in monetary pledges and in-kind contributions, including medical supplies, was raised, and included contributions from Asean member states.

Though it was not easy to provide assistance during a pandemic, Mr Shanmugam said the first phase of supplies and aid were successfully delivered on Sept 15.

This year's AMMDM, themed "Strengthening Partnership and Innovation for Disaster Management in Asean", was held on the last day of a series of meetings that started on Oct 8 and was organised by Singapore in its role as this year's ACDM and AMMDM chair.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who delivered Singapore's country statement at the meeting, said the Republic took the lead in boosting governance, partnership and innovation for disaster management and disaster risk reduction in Asean.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2021, with the headline 'Disaster management crucial even as Asean tackles Covid-19: Minister'. Subscribe