New Public Health Emergency Coordination System Will Strengthen Pandemic Response in Southeast Asia

February 17, 2021

COVID-19 has tested communities throughout the globe—even those considered well-prepared. In Southeast Asia, where Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) boast a successful record of dealing with disease outbreaks of zoonotic origin—such as Avian Influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—COVID-19 has highlighted cases where previously successful national and regional preparedness and response systems and mechanisms have fallen short.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Partnership for Regional Optimization within the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) project, DAI is supporting ASEAN to establish a Public Health Emergency Coordination System (APHECS) to enable a unified regional response to pandemic threats.

800px-ASEAN_Embleme copy.pngUnder this new multiyear initiative, PROSPECT will support ASEAN to institute a formal, multicountry mechanism to better prepare for, and respond to, public health emergencies. The system will integrate existing but disparate coordination mechanisms in the region under a single, cohesive institutional platform, enabling ASEAN’s 10 Member States—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—to coordinate across relevant stakeholders and mount swift and collective responses.

APHECS will be implemented through four phases:

  • Assessment—a comprehensive review of all existing systems to inform the design.
  • Framework—a legally binding ASEAN instrument detailing the association’s collective political mandate and commitment to the coordination system.
  • Standard operating procedures (SOP)—development of the institutional arrangements and SOPs for the APHECS, detailing how the system will be operationalized and resourced.
  • Training, tabletop exercise, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms—a training program and tabletop exercise for key stakeholders on operationalizing APHECS will be conducted to identify gaps and shortcomings and areas for refining.

“Once established, APHECS will help ASEAN better employ a rapid joint outbreak investigation response and share technical expertise and resources, including logistical management for sharing medical supplies,” said Keith Doxtater, Chief of Party, PROSPECT. “For the first time, APHECS will provide a unified, multisectoral institutional framework with public health emergency preparedness and response standard operating procedures. This structure will enable the ASEAN Member States to prepare for and respond collectively to public health emergencies, mitigate the impact of future outbreaks, and manage assistance to the affected Member States.”

PROSPECT is a joint project of USAID, the U.S. State Department, and ASEAN.

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