PEER countries and COVID-19

Jun 5, 2020

Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response (PEER) Stage 4 (2014-2020), is a regional program supported by the United States Agency for International Development/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/ OFDA) since 1998. PEER aims to enhance local and regional disaster preparedness and response capacities of vulnerable countries in Asia through the institutionalization of sustainable disaster preparedness training programs and emergency response systems. To date, PEER has undergone four stages: Stage 1 (1998–2003); Stage 2 (2003–2009); Stage 3 (2009–2014); and Stage 4 (2014–2020), which is currently being implemented by National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET). NSET is implementing PEER Stage 4 in four South Asian countries—Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan—with participation of Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka in some regional program events.

In the context of current COVID-19 emergency, the capacity enhancement activities through various knowledge and skill-based trainings, and established methodology and system for emergency response and management under PEER has shown significant contribution to the respective countries and organizations.

This brief report, based on information released by PEER partner organizations, personal communication with PEER graduates (responders) and other publicly available government documents, presents the impact, response and challenges responding to COVID-19 in the PEER countries.


Nepal was the first PEER country in South Asia to report to the World Health Organization (WHO) confirming about the virus infection in the country on 24th January, 2020. India reported on 30th January, followed by Pakistan on 27th February and Bangladesh on 9th March 2020, confirmed their first cases of COVID-19 to WHO (Reference: WHO Situation reports on COVID-19). In South Asia, India, apparently is the most affected with more than 227,000 reported cases, followed by Pakistan with approximately more than 89,200; Bangladesh with almost more than 57,000 reported cases; and Nepal with more than 2600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 5th June, 2020 1400 NST. (

Observing at the stats provided by ( on the recovered number of people from COVID-19 of May 22, 2020, the percentage of recovery shows that India has 48%; Pakistan with 34%, Bangladesh 21% and Nepal with 11%.


PEER countries have stepped up their national efforts and supported the global action in the prevention and control of COVID-19. Focal Government Ministries have activated their health emergency response plans/arrangements for responding to COVID-19. Risk communication have been strengthened through various media, namely, TV, print, radio, National Government/focal Ministry websites, health helplines, social media (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber), etc.

PEER graduates from different fields of expertise are involved in various tasks for COVID-19 response. Below are just some of the response activities of PEER partner institutions, with involvement of PEER graduates:

Bangladesh: PEER graduates working at Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) were busy spraying disinfectants at different areas in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and sensitizing people about COVID-19.

India: National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) India PEER graduates were working on isolation cells as well as disinfecting certain areas trying to stop the virus from spreading. They also had a team of NDRF officials going around in different areas asking people to stay at home during the initial stages of lockdown. Providing foods to daily wage workers was also one of the assistance services by NDRF.

Nepal: Nepali Army is taking lead in COVID-19 response, with the involvement of senior PEER instructors. Nepali Army also has been tasked by the Government to handle importing medicines and supplies from abroad to fight against COVID-19. Similarly each different security force working in Nepal has. Nepal Police and Armed Police formed response teams against COVID-19, some of these include PEER graduate/s; and has also been maintaining peace and security in the nation, and has deployed teams in the streets for controlling unnecessary people movement during lockdown.

Pakistan: A COVID-19 response campaign was launched by Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) where 5000 volunteers are engaged in door-to-door awareness, screening and household data collection through an app called PRC Muhafiz. PRCS is planning to reach 30 million households by covering vicinity all across Pakistan. Establishing hospitals of 150 beds in each district for quarantine facility also has been done. Punjab Emergency Services/Rescue1122 is working on establishing crises management cells, preventive measures by quarantine and isolation, establishment of screening and isolation centers and dedicated hospitals at different strategic locations and provinces. PEER graduates have also been seen on different local radio stations making people aware about the virus.

(Reference: Facebook pages, WhatsApp group, Viber group of PEER graduates)

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and above response efforts by PEER partner organizations may also change or increased accordingly as per their country’s need, and as per directives from their respective authorities.


COVID-19 is highly communicable that could be spread through droplet transmission. The need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has increased globally resulting to a general shortage on supplies. Most governments have resulted to implementing measures that would help mitigate the spread of virus infection. Domestic and international travel restrictions, social and physical distancing, community quarantine and nationwide lockdown have also impacted various sectors.

The dense population in some parts of South East Asia, lack of COVID-19 testing kits, lack of equipped laboratories, low capacity of healthcare facilities (if not lack of), and health workers at risk of contracting the virus, are just some of the few major issues. Cases of health care workers becoming infected or has succumbed from COVID-19 have also been reported, which adds to the increasing pressure and high probability of undermanned and overwhelmed healthcare capacities.

Nationwide lockdowns in South Asia had also impacted the marginalized sector. For example, the labor workers and other people in the informal sector have been displaced, out of work after the lockdown and started to travel back to their villages in huge numbers. In Nepal, the daily wage workers from Kathmandu had set out to their hometowns on foot. Similar issue has been raised in different big cities of PEER countries, such as Dhaka, Delhi, Islamabad, Mumbai, etc.; an issue that some or most of the developing countries have been addressing through some form of relief assistance and appropriate health monitoring procedures in view of the pandemic.

With Ramadan also being celebrated in the Muslim community, and with other religious activities, the governments also had to take different steps to control the virus from spreading as groups of people come together to worship during this holy period. Pakistan government had previously ordered to avoid worshipping at mosques during the lockdown but the government has taken back its order by asking people to maintain a six-foot distance during worshipping, bringing their own mats, not allowing older aged people to enter the mosques etc. (

Governments have been implementing various strategies and measures to continue delivery of essential services, mainly healthcare and other emergency response services, food, water, electricity telecommunications and law enforcement during the pandemic situation.

In view of the overall emergency response in vulnerable countries, main crux is sustaining the level of emergency response capacity, including trained responders, during challenging situations. Natural hazards and other emergencies may occur anytime during a pandemic, as recently experienced by Bangladesh and India during onslaught of Cyclone Amphan (May 2020). All the countries need a swift, efficient, effective and equitable emergency response.

For details and additional updates on the pandemic response in PEER countries, information are available through the following:

Bangladesh -
India -
Pakistan -
Nepal –

Respective governments have also set up different helplines and live chat systems for providing services to the public and answering their queries about COVID-19.

Sources of report information:

• Various social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber

News Archive
Home | About PEER | PEER Country | Course Information | Trainings Conducted | Links |Contact Us