Policy Brief: Current status and recommendations on the integration of pandemics within national/local DRR strategies in Sri Lanka

Dilanthi Amaratunga, Richard Haigh, Thushara Kamalrathne, Nishara Fernando, Naduni Jayasinghe, Chandana S. A. Siriwardana, Hemantha Herath, P Ranaweera, U Ariyasinghe, S. Rathnayake, C. Rupasinghe, L. Kodithuwakku

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Pandemics have engulfed populations from time to time and have thus been one of the most common causes of mass casualties throughout the world’s history. From the plague of Justinian in the 6th Century, the Black Death of the 14th Century to the Spanish flu, the Asian flu in the 20th Century and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the world has had its fair share of devastation caused by biological hazards. However, globalization, the increase in population density and growth in livestock husbandry have aggravated the risk of infectious diseases. In today’s globalized world, there is ample space for infectious diseases outbreaks to grow into large scale pandemics whose effects transcend system boundaries. COVID-19, the health effects of which immediately cascaded into a significant socio-economic downturn across the globe, has exemplified this. The recurring exposure of human populations to pandemics, coupled with the disastrous effects posed by such outbreaks, have rendered preparedness for biological hazards crucial.

A pandemic is “more than a health crisis; it is a socio-economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis, and a human rights crisis” (United Nations, 2020). Thus, pandemics conform to the definition of a disaster: “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability and capacity, leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses and impacts” (IOM, 2019, p. 48). A purely health based approach to the management of pandemics may easily overlook the multi-faceted nature of crises induced by pandemics and would be therefore be limiting. Similarly, a global, regional, national or a local disaster risk reduction agenda that fails to address biological hazards, including pandemics, would be indicative of a narrowly defined agenda. Nevertheless, most countries, including Sri Lanka have failed to take significant steps to broaden their view of risks to incorporate biological hazards, particularly pandemics and Public Health Emergencies of International Concern.

This policy brief provides an overview of policing and planning, risk identification and the Early Warning [EW] system of Sri Lanka, with a particular focus on the current integration of pandemics and associated compound hazards. The brief further provides policy recommendations for mainstreaming pandemics into national and local DRR strategies in Sri Lanka.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherGlobal Disaster Resilience Centre
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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