The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the University of Oxford have recently reaffirmed their commitment in disaster and medical humanitarian response by renewing their cooperation in the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC) for another five years. The agreement signing ceremony was officiated by Prof. Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and Prof. Joseph Sung, Vice-Chancellor of CUHK, on the CUHK campus. It is also one of the celebratory activities for CUHK's Golden Jubilee.
Prof. Andrew Hamilton is delighted by the continuing collaboration between CUHK and the University of Oxford on the disaster and medical humanitarian response. He said 'This centre is about the development of rigor and new approaches to humanitarian response. It has also become the means to strengthen the relationship between these two great universities.'
Commenting on the achievements of CCOUC, Prof. Joseph Sung said, 'Since its inception, CCOUC has been serving as a platform for research, education and knowledge transfer to community counterparts in the area of disaster and medical humanitarian response in the Asia Pacific Region and beyond. It is a laboratory built in real life that helps real people.'
The human loss and suffering caused by the recent catastrophic strike of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines once again reminded people in a brutal way the importance of enhancing the capacity of disaster preparedness and response in the local, national and international levels via research-informed and evidence-based policy advocacy, training and drill. This threat becomes more frequent and imminent as a result of climate change.
Prof. Emily Chan, Director of CCOUC, remarked in the signing ceremony, 'Asia is the continent facing the highest number of natural disaster hazards. There is no way for the researchers not to be interested in the research in the area of natural disaster and medical humanitarian assistance.' At this disaster, three members of CCOUC have joined Hong Kong NGOs to participate in the medical humanitarian relief effort in the Philippines.
CCOUC is based in the JC School of Public Health and Primary Care in the Faculty of Medicine of CUHK. Since its inception in April 2011, CCOUC gathers the very best faculty and students, undertakes world-class and international research, forges partnerships with other institutions internationally, and develops the fruits of research to benefit the wider global community. CCOUC has also provided technical assistance in disaster public health and medicine in China's major disasters, e.g. the 2013 Ya'an Earthquake in Sichuan Province; and in large-scale or rare types of disaster in the Asian region, e.g. the glacier lake outburst flood in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Faithful to its mission in conducting research, education and knowledge transfer in the field of community disaster resilience and preparedness, CCOUC has presented its research findings in international conferences and academic journals, conducted more than 10 research and knowledge transfer field trips for teachers and students of the University in 7 poverty-stricken peripheral provinces in China. CCOUC has also organized summer school, as well as regional and graduate fellowships to build capacity of researchers and practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region to conduct research and engage in providing local and international medical humanitarian assistances. Moreover, CCOUC has consulted the World Health Organization (WHO) on disaster health risk management and actively sought international cooperation with leading institutions in the field, including the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), a WHO Collaborating Centre housed at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and FXB Center for Health and Human Rights of the Harvard School of Public Health. An Agreement of Understanding was signed with the latter in July 2013 to formalize collaboration in research and training. In the late-November World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region Consultation Meeting held in Amman of Jordan, CCOUC was recognized as the only expert English-speaking academic team in China and Asia Pacific region who could contribute to the development of academic curriculum and training on emergency risk management and of a protocol for health emergency risk assessment.
With the renewal of this exemplary international cooperation between CUHK and Oxford University, CCOUC will set sail again in its humanitarian journey with some sharpened aspirations, namely, evolving into a WHO Collaborating Centre for community resilience and disaster preparedness, the first and only one of its kind in Asia; consolidating its status as an expert centre in disaster and medical humanitarian response in China by organizing training workshops for government agencies and NGO bodies at the national level and each of the 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 municipalities; building up new collaboration relationships with academic institutions in other parts of the world, notably South America and Africa; capitalizing on its cooperation with international partners to jointly apply for multi-national level funding for research, training and policy advocacy in disaster preparedness and medical humanitarian response; and elevating Hong Kong to serve as a regional leader in global issues of disaster risk reduction and community resilience by developing an international consultative platform to facilitate discussion among multi-sectoral stakeholders.