The Lao PDR, in partnership with the United States, hosted the Lower Mekong Initiative Disaster Relief Exercise and Exchange (LMI DREE) in Vientiane, starting on September 22. The LMI DREE is an annual civil-military disaster preparedness and response initiative between the governments of Lao PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and the United States. Each year it brings together both military and civilian experts in one of the six member states.
“Floods, storms, and other natural disasters do not respect national borders. In this deeply connected region, cooperation to help the victims of natural disasters is essential,” said the Honorable Daniel A. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to Laos PDR.
“The United States is committed to working with our partners in the Lao PDR and the other countries in the Lower Mekong region to help them meet these shared challenges,” Clune added.
This year’s exchange, took place over four days, and featured presentations, problem- solving sessions, and a site visit. It also included a tabletop exercise which focused on flood response in the Lower Mekong region, with a specific emphasis on impacts to the agriculture, health and transportation infrastructure sectors.
“The exercise ensures that the U.S. has a good understanding of not only national response protocols in the Lower Mekong countries but also regional protocols like ASEAN (Association of southeast Asian Nations) in particular, should we need to provide assistance during a flood,” said Justin Pummel a Geographer with the Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the exercise planner.
The activities leading up to the tabletop exercise provided a great opportunity for participants to share flood-related experiences and best practices and develop plans for dealing with future events, which is one of the main goals of the exercise.
“Flooding can happen every year, in this workshop we all came together, different ministries and different countries to discuss and plan the steps in responding to a flood, so we can better help our people and save lives,” said Ms. Vilavanh Xayaseng, Department of Communicable Disease Control, Laos PDR Ministry of Health.
During the DREE, participants also took a field trip to Hadsaifong District, a site east of Vientiane prone to flooding to share how local authorities here deal with flooding.
If there is flooding along the Mekong River it will likely affect more than one LMI state. DREE participants now know who to talk to and have and understanding of how each other’s preparation and response systems work, which should lead to more efficient and effective disaster response.
The LMI DREE is part of U.S. Army Pacific’s Pacific Resilience program. Pacific Resilience is a series of Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief engagements between USARPAC and several host nation forces.