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Military Region 5’s armed forces promote their core role in responding to “dual challenge”

Global climate change, natural disasters, and epidemics are amongst major challenges for Vietnam and cause heavy human and economic damage to our State and people. The stormy season is about to come to the South Central Coast - Central Highlands, while it has to deal with the extremely complicated developments of COVID-19. Being fully aware of their function and task, the Military Region 5’s armed forces have been encouraging their core role in proactively, effectively, opportunely responding to the “dual challenge.” That is also the study and following of Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, ethics and lifestyle within the Military Region’s armed forces as a great spiritual motivation for cadres and soldiers to surmount all difficulties and successfully fulfil their mission. The National Defence Journal would like to introduce a series of articles entitled: Military Region 5’s armed forces promote their core role in responding to “dual challenge,” co-authored by Hong Lam, Thien To, and Duc Thinh.

I. Responding to natural disasters amidst a pandemic

Natural disasters and epidemics are the most serious threats to human race; they are likely to happen at the same time in our country, particularly in the South Central Coast - Central Highlands in this stormy season, directly negatively impacting on the daily life and operation of citizens and businesses as well as localities’ socio-economic development.

COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as the greatest disaster in the world since the end of the World War II. As of August 2021, there were over 215 million infections, nearly 4.5 million dead, and more than 18 million people receiving treatment across the globe. The pandemic is becoming more complicated and dangerous with many new variants. In Vietnam, the 4th wave of COVID-19 is breaking out more widely and quickly due to the Delta variant. Detection of infections becomes more difficult as many cases are of unknown origin, leading to a large number of new outbreaks within residential areas and industrial zones.

The pandemic has increasingly seriously directly impacted on the socio-economic development of provinces within the South Central Coast - Central Highlands. Enterprises and citizens have encountered numerous difficulties in production, business, employment, and daily life. Previous waves only impacted on several specialised sectors, such as tourism, services, and transport; however, the current one is directly attacking businesses within industrial zones, export processing zones, and harbours. With one infection only, many factories, industrial zones, and export processing zones have to halt their production and face temporary shutdown, lockdown, or quarantine in different degrees. Moreover, shopping centres, supermarkets, and traditional markets have been profoundly affected in this wave. Due to the pandemic, there is a decline in consumption needs, many types of goods could not be sold, and export and import are in difficulty. More seriously, prices of many raw materials are skyrocketing. More specifically, the price of steel has doubled in comparison with the previous year. The price of petroleum has been increased in many times, at the highest for nearly past 2 years. The prices of animal feed and farming materials are also experiencing a dramatic surge. In that context, difficulties are piling up when the stormy season is coming with bleak forecasts.

The South Central Coast - Central Highlands is endowed with harsh natural conditions, thereby becoming the “flood navel” of the whole country. In the mountainous areas with sloping terrain, unstable subsurface geology, and short tributaries, heavy rains trigger flash floods together with the risk of landslides, bringing a halt to the traffic system and burying residential areas by the mountain foot. Meanwhile, frequently hit by storms and heavy rains, the narrow coastal plain is confronted with the harsh climate conditions, droughts, saltwater intrusion, which causes more difficulties for the people’s livelihood and residence. For the sake of economic development and the people’s life, many large-scale irrigation dams and hydroelectricity plant reservoirs have been constructed; however, with poor management, they would lead to local flooding.

Cadres and soldiers of the Military Region 5 conducting a search and rescue operation after the Storm No.9 in October 2020 (photo: qdnd.vn)

In recent years, being impacted by global climate change, weather developments have been extremely complex and unpredictable. The region has to face “storm after storm” and “flood after flood” quite often, causing catastrophes for local citizens, imposing more demanding requirements on the task of natural disaster prevention and mitigation performed by local party committees, authorities and armed forces. On a yearly basis, the South Central Coast - Central Highlands is directly hit by 3 to 5 typhoons (even category 16 or 17 ones) together with heavy rains in a large area (470mm to 790mm per day) and a sea level rise from 5.7m to 6.2m. Storms, floods, and other natural disasters claimed the lives of hundreds of people, caused severe material damage, and destroyed the environment and the people’s farmland. It should be noted that in early October 2020, storms, rains, and floods became increasingly complex and occurred in several South Central provinces with a record rainfall leading to historical flooding and landslides. Within only a short period of time, the region was struck by 5 typhoons (No.6, No.7, No.8, No.9, and No.12), with a rainfall of 1,000mm - 2,000mm and even 2,000mm - 3,000mm in some places, threefold or fivefold compared to the average of many previous years. In spite of the fact that we made elaborate preparations under the four on-the-spot motto, formulated specific response plans, maintained readiness, and promoted the synergy of the whole political system, with local armed forces playing a core, vanguard role, human and material losses were unavoidable. Therefore, natural disaster prevention and control has always been seen as a top priority, with the participation of organisations and forces and many practical, synchronous, effective measures to minimise the damage caused by storms and floods.

However, people sometimes can not foresee imminent challenges negatively impacting on social life and their daily life. Currently, it is the COVID-19 pandemic that is plaguing when the stormy season is coming. The pandemic will pose more difficulties, pressures, and challenges to the work of natural disaster prevention and control. It will also directly impact on authorities’ response to complicated weather developments, especially on the formulation of plans, the deployment of forces, material, logistics, and technical preparation, and evacuation of citizens. Fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to natural disasters simultaneously will make troubles for leadership and direction, while human and material resources will be dispersed. To avoid infection during the evacuation of people, it is necessary to divide them into proper groups according to the risks of infection, with priority given to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, persons with serious underlying medical conditions, pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and the disabled. Due attention should be paid to ensuring hygiene, sterilisation, clean water, and food safety within the evacuation or quarantine zones during the “dual disaster,” observing regulations on COVID-19 prevention and control, and maintaining the people’s life and social welfare policies to mobilise all available resources for epidemic prevention and control under the designed plans, projects, and scenarios.

Natural disasters, climate change and COVID-19 pandemic have posed more serious threats to local socio-economic life and the Military Region 5’s military-defence work. Notably, they have directly impacted on military region-level defence. More specifically, the Military Region 5 has encountered difficulties in completing and practising combat projects, preparing facilities, logistics-technical support, and supplies for troops and citizens, organising and using forces, and constructing defensive works. Despite having to enhance training and combat readiness, direct the building of provincial and district-level defensive zones, prevent and combat COVID-19 and natural disasters simultaneously, the Military Region 5’s Party Committee and Command have considered localities’ “dual challenge” as their own. Therefore, they have directed affiliated offices and units to cooperate with local standing boards on COVID-19 and natural disaster prevention and control in working towards effective remedial measures. Emphasis has been placed on reviewing projects on natural disaster prevention and control in the event of serious COVID-19 outbreak, maintaining readiness for directing and commanding natural disaster combat, organising and deploying delegations to the scene, evacuating people on the spot and in a large number, and stepping up the work of information and propagation to give advice to localities when the “dual disaster” occurs.

Under the spirit of “proactively grasping the situation, anticipating the epidemic’s developments, and quickly developing projects in any circumstance,” the Military Region 5’s armed forces will always promote their core role in responding to the “dual challenge” to make contributions to bolstering the tradition and virtues of “Uncle Ho’s soldiers” - “the Military Region 5’s soldiers” in the fight against natural disasters and epidemics.

(To be continued)

HONG LAM - THIEN TO - DUC THINH    

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