On 20 June 2018, a Hong Kong - Bhutan Experience Sharing Session 2018 was held by the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC). Four governmental and medical professionals from Bhutan shared with the audience how recent development in Bhutan has aggravated disaster risks. More than 40 students and academic staffs of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and public have actively participated and interacted with the four Bhutanese.
One of the speakers, Ms. Dawa Zangmo, who is the Block Administrative Officer of the Department of Local Governance, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs in Bhutan, started the sharing session by giving an overview of Bhutan. Situated in South Asia, Bhutan is a disaster-prone area which has been frequently suffered from earthquakes, flash floods, landslides, windstorms and fires. Dr. Chencho Gem, Dr. Sangay Phuntsho and Dr. Thinley Dorji, medical officers from Bhutan, further elaborated how the above disasters affected Bhutan, such as the damage of housing and cultural heritage. They also shared that rapid urbanization and accelerated hydropower development in Bhutan has increased land use, leading to an aggravation of disaster risks. To enhance disaster management and risk reduction capacities, Bhutan developed health emergency and disaster contingency plan and launched the Department of Disaster Management under Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.
Sponsored by Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation, the four Bhutanese attended summer courses on “Disaster and Humanitarian Crisis” and “Research Methodology for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response” under the Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response Summer Institute 2018 co-organized by CCOUC and the JC School of Public Health and Primary Care from 19 June to 4 July 2018. During the summer courses, they learnt new knowledge and concepts such as disaster preparedness, awareness and response, the “Sphere Project: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response”, and mental health first aid which they found them useful and crucial for Bhutan’s disaster response in the future. The four Bhutanese fellows revealed that the courses are useful and inspiring, which they could acquire skills in the management of health risks during disaster and emergency situations and hope to attend advanced trainings in the future.