Since Brunei Darussalam confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the country has witnessed various contributions and responses to the outbreak.
Humanitarian Emergency Aid Response Team (HEART) was among the first few to come forward to the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), and has been instructed to provide support to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MYCS) which is in need of helping hands.
Founder Paul Chiew, in an interview with the Sunday Bulletin, noted that having trained by NDMC and being an NGO that works closely with NDMC, it swiftly made the decision to voluntarily come forward.
“This is how we give back to the country for the training given through NDMC,” said Chiew.
The organisation is currently quartered at the Community Development Department (JAPEM)’s Pusat Bahagia, where its main responsibilities include collaborating with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and providing support to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS).
Chiew said that they follow the MCYS’ standard operation procedures (SOP), as well as their own SOP, “hence the request to set up our own operations room, to support the MCYS with regard to their volunteers.
“Some of them lack medical background, while the majority of HEART volunteers are quite well-trained, so we provide support as a leader for those who signed up to tackle this disaster. We know the SOP of Natural Disaster and we were also taught about the National Standard Operation Procedures (NSOP) in disaster.
“It is important that NGOs have a set of guidelines on what to do, especially as this national disaster is totally different from previous ones such as flood and fire. As this involves a deadly virus, we need to be very careful.”
With face masks and gloves reserved for medical frontliners, acquiring their own personal protective equipment (PPE) is also an issue for HEART. Their suppliers based in Hong Kong and Taiwan have 200,000 PPE and 650,000 face masks ready, and they are trying to raise fund to meet the order price.
“We don’t have the chance to meet up the relevant authorities to get approval for our own PPE and equipment.
“We have suppliers that are ready to deliver these, but aside from funding matters, we hope that the MoH will support us to get our own import licence as an NGO,” said Chiew.
“Most countries like China have stopped exporting these items, except if the importer has a licence to import and belongs to an NGO.
“But another issue will be that with most transportations cancelled, it is going to be difficult to bring in, too. Hopefully the Brunei Government can support by collaborating with Royal Brunei Airlines in bringing more orders by air, which is much faster,” he added.