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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

SE Asian Red Cross leaders meet on disaster, disease response

MANILA (AFP): Red Cross leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations met in Manila on Tuesday to discuss ways of increasing inter-regional cooperation to better cope with natural disasters and epidemics.

Philippine National Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said the outbreak of avian flu in the region underlined the urgent need for the region to "come up with a specific plan of action.

"We need to clarify the priorities in our public health services and prepare programs that clearly address issues like HIV/AIDS, emerging diseases and potential pandemics," Gordon said in a statement.

The former tourism secretary and senator said: "Natural disasters are changing in scale and intensity like hurricanes Katrina and Rita that hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and last year's tsunami.

"Now avian flu is rearing its ugly head as a potential global public health disaster."

Gordon emphasized that there is a need "to advance on a roadmap that will bring us to a faster, more friendly, flexible and forward-looking Red Cross Movement."

He said the forum will serve as a preparation for the various leaders who will participate in the Red Cross World General assembly to be held in Seoul, in November.

He said delegates had already taken steps toward the creation of a regional disaster management training center, which will ultimately serve as the platform for training, logistics coordination and exchange of best practices and lessons learnedfrom past disaster management experiences in Southeast Asia.

The leaders of Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Timor East and the Philippines together with their respective teams are attending the three-day conference. (*)

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