Medical experts from ASEAN nations, the US and European Union (EU), plus representatives from the United Nations are gathering in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for an exercise to improve Southeast Asia’s capabilities in preparing for and responding to serious pandemics.

The five-day regional event, which will last until August 20, is being jointly held by the UN, ASEAN, the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Addressing the event, ASEAN’s Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, said that it is a great opportunity for community medical workers to learn from one another’s experiences.

Challenges like epidemics, the financial crisis and climate change are major issues that require both a regional and global response, he said.

The prevention and control of epidemics requires a society wide solution and the wrong responses could lead to severe social and economic chaos, which would affect economic growth, he added.

He went on to say that the outcome of the exercise would help Southeast Asia to deal with severe epidemics and reduce their impact to a minimum as well as set an example that can be followed on a global front./.