Sunday, April 11, 2010

U.S. and Laos Co-Host Multinational Pandemic Influenza Workshop

Major infectious disease outbreaks in Asia are being placed under the microscope during a series of workshops co-hosted by the U.S. and Laos. This multinational "Pandemic Influenza Civil-Military Senior Planners Workshop" from 6-9 April, 2010, included more than 45 civilian and military medical professionals from 12 nations. Participating nations include Cambodia, the Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Part of the discussion included how H1N1 spread so quickly outside of Mexico last year. Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) lead for the pandemic influenza workshop series, Andy Bates, thinks this is "because a local surveillance system was lacking." As a result, Laos presented on its newly instituted pandemic community surveillance network to other countries in the region. Bates thinks this knowledge sharing and collaboration may provide an opportunity to contain an infectious disease before it spreads to the general population. After all, the goal of the four-day workshop involved strategizing to integrate civilian and military resources into contingency planning for major infectious disease outbreaks at the national, provincial, and district level. The COE plans to execute a series of bilateral workshops to take pandemic influenza lessons learned to the community level in several Asia-Pacific countries later this year.

Bates added, "All the countries that were not able to attend [last year's] workshop have been invited to this one. Material from the [that] workshop, as well as additional lessons learned from last year's H1N1 outbreak are being covered."

This workshop is part of the ongoing cooperation by the U.S. Embassy in Laos, the U.S. Department's of Defense's (DoD) Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) on behalf of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) with the Lao Ministry of Health, Lao National Emerging Infectious Disease Coordinating Office (NEIDCO) and the People's Army Military Medical Department.

The 2010 multi-event pandemic workshop series is the result of an inter-agency agreement between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE-DMHA) was established by the US Congress in 1994 to facilitate civil-military management in international disaster management and humanitarian assistance. It partners with a wide variety of national and international governmental, non-governmental and international organizations to provide relevant education, training, coordination and research.

COE-DMHA, a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) organization, is a direct reporting unit to the US military's Pacific Command (USPACOM) and is establishing field offices at global Combatant Commands (COCOMs) to promote global disaster preparedness and resiliency.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Big Island hosts USPACOM International Military Lawyer Conference

Today, Pacific Command's 23rd annual Military Operations and Law Conference (MILOPS) wraps up on the Big Island, Hawaii. MILOPS is a yearly meeting of legal professionals from countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. With 26 nations represented, this year's conference covered a broad spectrum of complex issues facing the Asia-Pacific region from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to counter proliferation to Information Operations and cyber warfare.

While not a legal professional, my leadership gave me the opportunity to attend this year's conference to get a different perspective on the challenges facing our area of responsibility. As a Public Affairs Officer, I routinely work closely with our legal staff to ensure our desire to disseminate accurate and timely information is just that, accurate. The complexity of some of the issues we face in this region are extraordinary. What this "outsider" took great comfort in was the diverse group of committed men and women in attendance. Their passion for their profession and for the region as a whole was palpable.

Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, opened the conference on Monday lauding the participants' dedication to the rule of law and their willingness to come together to discuss difficult legal and policy issues confronting the region. He credited exchanges such as the MILOPS conference for directly affecting the region's readiness to conduct successful operations.

More than 200 attended the conference from Australia, Thailand, India, Loas, Malaysia, Canada, Japan, the UK, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Bangladesh, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Vietnam, Tonga, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Mongolia, Maldives, and of course the United States.

If asked for the most significant take away from this conference, remembering I'm an outsider, it would simply be the resounding theme throughout the week of a need for collaboration between all nations to address myriad complex issues facing the region. There was tacit agreement in all the discussions and panel presentations that to continue to maintain the security and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, nations must work together.

Capt. Matt Hasson


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