Project Events

The First Physical Meeting among Key Partners held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 18th October 2021

A face to face meeting was held among the University of Huddersfield, University of Colombo, University of Moratuwa and Ministry of Health teams on 18th October 2021 at the Executive Lounge, 7th Floor, Cinnamon Lakeside, Colombo. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the key project outputs achieved thus far by the key partners and to establish consensus regarding the way forward of the remaining project activities.

The meeting was physically attended by Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga of the Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield; Professor Nishara Fernando, Ms. Naduni Jayasinghe and Ms. Nilushi Dewapura from the Social Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SPARC) at the University of Colombo and Dr. Chandana Siriwardarana and Mr. Ravindu Jayasekara from the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa. Further, Dr. Hemantha Herath, Dr. Udara Ariyasinghe, Dr. Prasad Ranaweera, Dr. Lahiru Kodithuwakku, Dr. Shyamali Rathnayake and Dr. Chintha Rupasinghe from the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka were physically present at the event. In addition, Professor Richard Haigh and Mr. Thushara Kamalrathne from University of Huddersfield joined the meeting virtually via zoom.

The meeting commenced with a comprehensive outline of the project’s research questions and the corresponding work packages provided by Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga who chaired the meeting. Following this, Mr. Thushara Kamalrathne provided a detailed description of the initial draft of the conceptual framework on the key actors and processes involved in COVID-19 and other pandemic warning and dissemination processes. It was decided that the framework be subject to validation by the Ministry of Health team in due course. Subsequently, Professor Richard Haigh commented on the master questionnaire developed by University of Colombo amalgamating the data collection questions developed under work packages 01, 02 and 03. This was followed by a presentation of initial findings by Dr. Chandana Siriwardana in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on the response capabilities for other hazards with emphasis on aspects such as resources, risk communication, non-pharmaceutical interventions and epidemiological analysis. Further, the questionnaire, which was developed jointly by University of Huddersfield, University of Moratuwa and Ministry of Health teams for the purpose of administering the community survey to examine COVID-19 vaccination procedures from a risk communication perspective, was presented during the meeting for inputs of all key partners. Additionally, the attendees discussed the way forward of activities pertaining to work package 04 of the project. Resulting from this discussion, a decision was made to organize a round table discussion in Sri Lanka around January 2022 aimed at 1) facilitating a consultative process on the revision of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and contingency plans to incorporate containment measures for COVID 19, such as physical distancing and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and 2) providing recommendations in strengthening healthcare facility capacity for emergency response including the development of communication material on COVID-19 and general preventive measures for the general public, training modules, slide sets and videos for training of health workers and other field level social workers.

Pre-conference session- 01: Empowering community through effective communication in dengue- scenario-based training for Public Health Midwives

This workshop was organized for Public Health Midwives in Sri Lanka on Empowering communities through effective communication in dengue scenario-based training. This pre-congress session was held in the regional health training centre, Kadugannawa on25th February 2022. 50 Public Health Midwives and Supervising Public Health Midwives from Kandy and Kegalle districts participated in the program. The aim of this session was to develop the capacity of PHM on community empowerment for effective risk communication in dengue and other hazards mainly utilizing the services of ‘Mother Support Groups’ through active engagement of local networks catered by the Public Health Midwife

Pre-conference workshop 2: Vector bionomics and integrated vector management in Malaria and Dengue

The theme of this second pre-conference workshop was Vector Bionomics and Integrated Vector Management in Malaria and Dengue. The pre-congress session-2 was held on the 2nd March 2022 at the Auditorium of National Blood Transfusion Service Center, Colombo 05. It was held with the participation of 50  Regional Malaria Officers (RMO), Entomologists and Health Entomology Officers (HEO), and technical staff of the Anti-Malaria Campaign (AMC) and National Dengue Control Unit(NDCU). The pre-congress session-2 was jointly organized by the AMC and the NDCU.

Pre-conference workshop 3: Workshop on improving preparedness and response for multi-hazard scenarios for public health inspectors in Southern Province, Sri Lanka

This workshop was on improving preparedness and response for multi-hazard scenarios for Public Health Inspectors- Southern Province Sri Lanka. The event was held on 8 th March 2022 at the Auditorium of the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) office, Matara with the participation of 50 Public Health Inspectors of Matara, Galle, and Hambantota districts. This session further facilitated PHI to effectively communicate the risks of multiple hazards to the community through engagement of all stakeholders and also to empower the people to control their own behaviour and health to mitigate the effects of diseases and other hazards.

Community engagement workshop 1: Jaffna

The first community engagement workshop was held in Rathnapura which is a disaster-prone district in Sri Lanka. The objective of the workshops was to incorporate citizens’ perspectives on pandemic preparedness amidst a multi-hazard scenario in their respective districts. The target audience was community members of the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who have actively engaged in pandemic response, grass-root level public health workers including Public Health Inspectors (PHI) and Public Health Midwives (PHM), and members of the local youth, women, and faith-based organizations. All together 75 members participated in the workshop. Resource panels were selected from local faculty including public health professionals, sociologists and experts in rural development and community engagement.

Dr. Hemantha Herath, Director, Education and Research, Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Sanaraweera, Director, National Dengue Control Unit, Dr. Prasad Ranaweera, Director, Anti-Malaria Campaign participated as experts in the public health in Sri Lanka. Also, DR Lahiru Kodituwakku, Dr Nimalka Pannilahetti, Dr Iroshani Abeysekere, and  Dr Nagoor Ariff  participated as experts from the National Dengue Control Unit. Mr Ravi Sangarapillai, Mr S. Sivakanthan and Mr K Sajanthan from the university of Jaffna contributed as resource persons in the area of DRR and Sociology. Prof Dilanthi Amaratunga, Prof Nishara Fernanado, Thushara Kamalrathne, Nanduni Jayasinghe, Ravindu Jayasekere, Thisasra Pereara and Shavindree Nissanka participated in the event as experts from GDRC, University of Huddersfield, University of Colombo and University of Moratuwa.

Taking a novel approach, instead of the usual didactics, a simulation-based training workshop was designed to mimic real-life disaster scenarios encountered in the local setting. Each scenario for the simulation was tailormade to extract local knowledge and skills on multi-hazard preparedness, mitigation, and response. Participants were encouraged to work in groups to share their best practices among them. The interaction between grass root level public health workers and community-based organizations were envisioned to build a concrete working relationship that would be of immense potential during a real disaster. Participants were expected to come up with a locally grown, community-driven action plan based on the areas of preparedness, mitigation, response, and post-disaster recovery at the end of the simulation. Facilitators and observers were tasked with imparting essential technical knowledge whenever required and ensure a participant-driven approach throughout the simulation. Feedback and comments from the participants and facilitators were compiled for successive scenario development in a similar setting in future.

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Community engagement workshop 2: Rathnapura

The second community engagement workshop was held in Jaffna which is also a disaster-prone district in Sri Lanka. The objective of the workshops was to incorporate citizens’ perspectives on pandemic preparedness amidst a multi-hazard scenario in their respective districts. The target audience was community members of the Community Based Organizations (CBOs) who have actively engaged in pandemic response, grass-root level public health workers including Public Health Inspectors (PHI) and Public Health Midwives (PHM), and members of the local youth, women, and faith-based organizations. All together 75 members participated in the workshop.

Representing the project, Mr Thushara Kamalrathne and Dr Lahiru Kodituwakku participated as resource persons in the workshop. Dr Sudatah Samaraweera, Director, National Dengue Control Unit, also participated as a resource person for the workshop. This workshop was planned as a simulation-based training program to absorb the real-life experience of people. Six multi-hazard scenarios have been given to community members to propose their own plans to reflect the preparedness and response. Once the plan was presented by each group, expert opinion was incorporated. 

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Post-conference workshop 02: D-MOSS workshop

D-MOSS project aims to develop an early warning system which is a satellite-based innovative model to predict dengue outbreaks by utilizing climatological, epidemiological, and related earth observation data. This model is already live in Vietnam and is being initiated to implement in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines, and Sri Lanka. It gives beneficiaries several months’ advance warning of likely outbreaks of dengue fever. It allows local communities to mobilize to eliminate mosquito-breeding sites thus reducing the incidence of dengue.

The objective of the workshop is to introduce a novel dengue forecasting model to regional health authorities across Sri Lanka. This two days workshop introduced evidence-based novel techniques in dengue forecasts, incorporating different meteorological, hydrological and epidemiological parameters. HR Wallingford, the lead technical agency behind the project conducted two knowledge dissemination workshops on this model for Regional Epidemiologists and Medical Officers of Health in dengue high-risk areas on 21st and 22nd March at Hotel Blue Waters, Wadduwa, and Cinnamon Lakeside, Colombo. 120 members participated in this two-day event

Stakeholder seminar on Private Sector Preparedness for Pandemics and Multi-Hazard Scenarios

An event organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce on ‘Private Sector Preparedness for Pandemics and Multi-Hazard Scenarios’ was held on 30th March, 2022 at Taj Samudra, Colombo. The event was held with the objective of bringing together key private sector and state sector stakeholders to present key findings and recommendations pertaining to private sector preparedness for pandemics and multi-hazard scenarios features pandemics.

The findings were presented jointly by Professor Nishara Fernando, the co-investigator of the project from University of Colombo and Mr. Chandrarathne Vithanage, the Senior Assistant Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The event also saw the launch of two position papers, targeted at the private and state sectors, which have captured the socio-economic impacts of the 1st and 2nd waves of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and the degree of pandemic preparedness within four key economic sectors namely, apparel sector, agriculture sector, constriction sector and tourism sector.

Further, the event featured a panel discussion among representatives from the mentioned sectors, health sector, the disaster management sector and academia. The objective of the panel discussion was to gain fresh perspectives by reflecting on the developments since April 2021 in private sector responses to, and recovery from, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka. 35, members including invitees and the research team were attended in the event

Validation Workshop

The workshop was organized by the University of Colombo team on 31st march 2022 at the Hilton Colombo Residences with the objective of validating the findings derived under Work packages 01, 02 and 03 of the project. Seven stakeholders representing the disaster management sector, another seven stakeholders from the health sector and two other miscellaneous stakeholders were invited to validate the findings presented during the session. All together 22 participants attended.

The workshop commenced with a presentation made by Mr. Thushara Kamalrathne on a conceptual framework developed featuring the key actors and processes involved in the preparation of COVID-19 and other pandemic warning and dissemination processes. This was followed by a presentation delivered by Ms. Naduni Jayasinghe representing the University of Colombo team which focused on providing a Sri Lanka-based perspective of the actors and processes involved in the issue and dissemination of Early Warning for COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Ms. Nilushi Dewapura subsequently made a presentation on data gathered under Work Package 02 which focused on the research question: ‘How are COVID 19 and other pandemic threats integrated within national and local disaster risk reduction strategies?’ Consequently, Dr. Chanadana Sirwardena and Mr. Ravindu Jayasekara representing the University of Moratuwa team presented the key findings derived under work package 03 of the project. The invitees actively contributed to verifying the findings presented.

International Symposium on Multi-hazard Early Warning and Disaster Risk Reduction- MHEW 2020

This international symposium was jointly organized by the Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka, Global Disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield, UK, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, Thailand and University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, in collaboration with Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka, partner UN agencies, JICA, and a set of other local and international partners, aiming to promote the availability and application of research, science and technology to support the implementation of Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The conference was held 14-16 December 2020 at Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Sri Lanka as a hybrid event in which all technical sessions were conducted virtually. Following national and international agencies intensely collaborated with the symposium.

  • The International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), intergovernmental coordination Groupfor the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (ICG/IOTWMS) ICG/IOTWMSWG1 on Tsunami Risk, Community awareness and preparedness
  • International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN), Sri Lanka
  • Department of Meteorology, Sri Lanka
  • Association of Disaster Risk Management professionals in Sri Lanka (ADRiMP)
  • University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
  • University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka
  • REGARD (Rebuilding after Replacement)
  • CABERET (Capacity Building in Asia for resilience Education) project on fostering regional cooperation for more effective multi-hazard early warning and increased resilience among coastal communities
  • Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT), Indonesia
  • Regional Dialog of Asian Preparedness Partnership (APP)
  • The United Nations World Food Programme
  • The Japan International Cooperation Agency
  • Child Fund Sri Lanka
  • International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment

This event was very prestige and recognized as hundreds of well renowned local and international scholars and practitioners were involved in key notes, panel discussions and presenting their high impact research findings in the area of MHEW. The conference was chaired by Prof Dilanthi Amaratunga and Prof Richard Haigh (University of Huddersfield, Major General (Rtd) Sudantha Ranasinghe (Director General, Disaster management Centre, Sri Lanka), and Mr Sunil Jayaweera (Director, Preparedness Planning, DMC, Sri Lanka). 180 peer reviewed research papers were presented in the conference and 5 plenary sessions were organized under salient themes in MHEW as mentioned below

  • Plenary Session 1: Science, Policy and Practice Nexus for Risk Analytics, Early Warning Systems and Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs), perspectives from the Asians
  • Plenary Session 2: Integrating Epidemics and Pandemic Preparedness into Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Plenary Session 3: Nature Based Solutions (NBS) for a Resilient Future
  • Plenary Session 4: Media and Disaster Risk communication
  • Plenary Session 5: Launch of the Colombo 2020 MHEW and DRR declaration at the final plenary- The Road Map for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management for Sri Lanka in supporting the implementation of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.



National Conference on COVID 19: Impact, Mitigation, opportunities, and Building Resilience

The National Conference on COVID 19: Impact, Mitigation, opportunities, and Building Resilience: ‘from Adversity to Serendipity’ was jointly organized with the National Science Foundation in Sri Lanka, on 27th and 28th January at BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka. This conference was aimed at developing and disseminating guidance to better incorporate pandemics and other biological hazards into national and local DRR preparedness and response which is a main aspect and objective of the research project. Moreover, this initiative was taken place in a timely manner where Sri Lanka also was badly impacted by the COVID19 global pandemic. The research output made by the event was recorded as the first systematic and scientific research compilation in Sri Lanka on COVID 19 pandemic and its cascading impacts on different sectors. Eighty-three peer-reviewed research papers were presented and approximately 1100 participants attended both physical and virtual.

WHO, the state ministry of skills development, vocational education, research and innovations, Sri Lanka, ministry of health, disaster management centre, global disaster resilience centre, University of Huddersfield, postgraduate institute of management, Sri Lanka were strategic partners of the conference. A set of world-renowned researchers and scientists from Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and Oceania participated in the conference. This conference is highly regarded and recognized as a timely event by the government of Sri Lanka. Minister, Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka participated as the chief guest and Minister, State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovations participated as guest of honour in the conference.

Subsequently to the conference, an interdisciplinary policy dialogue was organized to discuss the diverse effects of COVID 19 and its cascading impacts towards socio-economic sectors in particular to Sri Lanka, which was chaired by Prof Ranjith Senaratne, Chairman, National science Foundation of Sri Lanka and Prof Dilanthi Amaratunga, Global disaster Resilience Centre, University of Huddersfield.

A book titled COVID19: Impact, Mitigation, Opportunities and Building Resilience: from adversity to serendipity- perspectives of global relevance based on research, experience and successes in combating COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, which contains 66 selected the best peer-reviewed chapters including keynotes by renowned scholars and practitioners in the field was the remarkable output of the conference. The book was edited by Prof Ranjith Senaratne, Prof Dilanthi Amaratunga, Prof Shanthi Mendis and Prof Prema-chandra Athukorala. This research compilation has been widely recognized by international and local scholars, especially in the field of DRR and public health, as this compilation contains an array of research works related to the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting different subject aspects in understanding global and local challenges.

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