Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Response plans launched in 28 countries in Asia Pacific in 2020, prioritizing over 97 million people for humanitarian assistance.
  • Afghanistan: 18.4 million people in humanitarian need – six times the number only four years ago.
  • Responding to a triple crisis in the Philippines: COVID-19, Super Typhoon Goni and Typhoon Vamco
  • Intersection of Gender and Disability in Humanitarian Responses in Asia and the Pacific
  • Fiji: Humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclone Yasa continues to reach affected island communities
fire
A devastating fire broke out on 14 January in Nayapara Registered Refugee Camp, Bangladesh. Some 3,500 people lost their homes when the fire destroyed more than 550 shelters. (Photo: WFP)

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Key Figures

$2.7B
Humanitarian Funding Tracked in 2020 in AP
18.4M
People in Need in Afghanistan (2021)
1M
People in need in Myanmar (2021)
10.5M
People in Need in Pakistan (2021)

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Contacts

Pierre Peron

Regional Public Information Officer, OCHA ROAP

Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Bangladesh — Media
Capture

Bangladesh: ISCG Statement on Fire in Nayapara Registered Camp

Cox’s Bazar, 14 January 2021 A devastating fire broke out in Nayapara Registered Refugee Camp today. Some 3,500 persons lost their homes when the fire destroyed more than 550 shelters. A community centre and several shops were also completely destroyed. Very fortunately, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, and the few people with minor injuries have been released after initial treatment.

The local fire department was at the scene and able to control and contain the fire within two hours The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), Nayapara Registered Camp-in-Charge (CiC), and law enforcement authorities also quickly mobilized to support the response in the area. The fire reportedly originated from an individual shelter; however, a full investigation is ongoing by the local authorities.

ISCG partners - UN and NGOs - have stepped in to assist the authorities in responding to the incident, with the support of Rohingya refugees who have been trained as safety unit volunteers (SUVs), Rohingya and Bangladeshi Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) volunteers, and the wider local community. Medical care,shelter kits, non-food items, winter clothes, and emergency food assistance including hot meals are being delivered to the affected families, who are temporarily being accommodated with relatives and in emergency accommodation. The refugee community is helping to clear the debris.

UNHCR’s Head of Operations Marin Din Kajdomcaj said, “We have been on the ground since very early in the morning. We are working with our Government and NGO partners, other UN agencies, and Rohingya refugees to help people who have lost their homes and possessions during last night’s terrible fire in the refugee camp at Nayapara. “

The Government of Bangladesh and UN and NGO partners have put in place fire prevention measures, and the refugee community is trained and well-informed on fire safety practices. Effective response mechanisms are in place in case such fires erupt.

The rapid and effective response today has shown how preparing together and engaging the refugee communities can help reduce the serious injuries and loss of life.

For more information, please contact:

Bahia Egeh, partnership4@iscgcxb.org

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Myanmar: Snapshot of temporary displacement in northern Shan

Temporary Displacement Overview - northern Shan

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Afghanistan — Coordination
AFGH

Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan 2018-2021 (January 2021 revision)

When the first edition of the multi-year Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was published four years ago, it envisaged a very different and much improved situation for the people of Afghanistan by 2021, with humanitarian needs declining as people rebuilt their lives and began their recovery. Sadly, however, a deadly combination of COVID-19, surging conflict and a hostile climate have left that promise far out of reach. The trajectory of needs and scale of response over the life of this HRP paint a shocking picture of escalating suffering, hunger and danger.

We go into 2021, with 18.4 million people in humanitarian need – nearly half the population. There are nearly six times the number of people needing humanitarian assistance in 2021 compared to four years ago when this multi-year HRP was first developed. The health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen the number of people in need almost double in the past year alone, with food insecurity soaring as people’s livelihoods were lost and their limited financial reserves were depleted. Afghanistan now has the second highest number of people in emergency food insecurity in the world, while nearly one in two children under-five will face acute malnutrition in 2021. While enduringly resilient, people are increasingly desperate, resorting to debt and other more dangerous coping mechanisms to survive including marrying off their young daughters and sending their children to work. Against this backdrop of acute poverty, there are now 30.5 million people who require social assistance from the Government and development actors to help them cope and prevent them slipping into worse humanitarian need.

Over the course of the multi-year HRP, the humanitarian community has proven its capacity to scale-up to meet new needs, initially caused by the 2018-2019 drought and now COVID-19 coupled with escalating conflict. I am proud to say that despite the logistical challenges created by COVID-19 and the worsening security environment, humanitarian organisations have proven their commitment to stay and deliver, complementing the efforts of the Government, and actually increasing their footprint to provide assistance in 99 per cent of districts in 2020. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are the backbone of this response and I see a strong and vibrant role for NGOs and the civil society sector in expanding this reach even further.

In 2021, humanitarian organisations have an ambitious plan to reach 15.7 million people with life-saving assistance. This is up from a target of 2.3 million people four years ago. The 2021 HRP requires $1.3 billion and people’s survival depends on the 162 dedicated humanitarian organisations operating in Afghanistan receiving sufficient financial resources to deliver a response on this scale. The consequences of late or inadequate funding are very real. Significant unmet needs in 2020 due to funding shortfalls and the acute focus on COVID-19, as well as the slow rollout of complementary development assistance, have all been factors in the worsening outlook for 2021.

While we have made significant strides in working more collaboratively with development actors in 2020 using a COVID-19 lens to produce a common needs analysis, the situation demands that we do more in 2021 to ensure our programme delivery is also complementary across the humanitarian-development spectrum. I look forward to seeing the outcomes from the Inter-Cluster Coordination Team's (ICCT's) work in this regard in 2021, with a particular focus on more integrated humanitarian action and agreement on common outcomes with development actors for people in long-term displacement, especially in urban areas and addressing the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. Initiatives like these are critical to supporting the kind of recovery originally envisaged at the start of this multi-year HRP.

The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and the ICCT are committed to applying a strong gender and protection lens to their work in 2021, acknowledging the disproportionate impacts of the conflict and the pandemic on women, children and people with disability. Given the scale of vulnerability in Afghanistan, this effort will be guided by a range of both new and well-established technical working groups focused on gender, disability inclusion, gender-based violence (GBV), child protection, accountability to affected people (AAP) and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA). Increasingly we also are working to address these protection and accountability issues in a more unified and coordinated way with development colleagues which will ensure more effective action. Sustained humanitarian access to people in need, free from interference by parties to conflict, will continue to be challenging in 2021, and our negotiations will be guided by the Joint Operating Principles (JOPS) with support from the Humanitarian Access Group (HAG).

Despite this bleak outlook, there is still cause for hope with the start of intra-Afghan negotiations. After enduring decades of war, people are mentally exhausted and hungry for peace, yearning for an end to civilian deaths and suffering. A permanent ceasefire or a persistent reduction in violence would provide the opportunity for humanitarians to carry out comprehensive assessments in hard-to-reach (HTR) areas to gain a deeper understanding of existing needs. Credible needs assessments are the critical first step in any response to ensure the right beneficiaries are supported with the right assistance.

Until this much hoped for peace becomes a reality, the humanitarian community stands beside the people of Afghanistan during what surely must be one of the country’s difficult periods. Given the sheer scale of needs, we all must do more, stretch higher and do better to deliver life-saving assistance to those who need it most. I urge donors to show solidarity, give early and give generously to humanitarian organisations at this pivotal moment, helping us to reduce immediate suffering but also set people on the so far elusive road to recovery. I am confident that all our investments and efforts will contribute to rebuilding and changing lives of the people we assist.

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Weekly Humanitarian Snapshot

Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot
5 - 11 JANUARY 2021

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MYANMAR

Around 2,000 people have been newly displaced in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan between 1 and 6 January due to the fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). Over 3,000 people have now been taking refuge in eight sites in the Township since 27 December 2020, when the clashes first erupted in the area. This is in addition to 240 people who remain displaced in Namtu Township in northern Shan since 4 January due to clashes between the RCSS/SSA and TNLA. Local authorities, host communities and humanitarian organizations continue to provide the displaced population with food, non-food, cash and COVID-19-related assistance

INDONESIA

Two landslides at the same location on 9 January in Sumedang District of West Java claimed 19 lives, 18 people were injured, and 150 people were evacuated. The second landslide occurred while rescue and response efforts were ongoing, with fatalities including Government first responders. The National Disaster Management Authority (BNPD) and the Social Office has provided food to the affected residents and rescuers. The Head of the BNPB visited the area on 10 January and provided emergency response funds of 1 billion Indonesian Rupiah (70,000 USD) for reconstruction support to affected households.

PHILIPPINES

Up to 70,000 people were displaced and 2 people killed by floods in the northern part of Negros Occidental Province on the 8 January. Rescue teams from the military, police, coast guard, local governments, and the Red Cross evacuated thousands from floods following heavy rainfall caused by a low pressure area. Local authorities leading the relief operations, with the local Red Cross chapter also providing hot meals and first aid services. Flood waters have receded and most people have been able to return home, while assessments are ongoing on the extent of flood damages.

MALAYSIA, THAILAND

Since the beginning of January, seasonal monsoon rain brought heavy rainfall and caused flooding in the southern provinces of Thailand and the east coast of Malaysia (Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu). In Thailand, 3 people have died and 62,270 households in four provinces (Songkla, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani) have been affected by floods, as of 11 January. In Malaysia, 5 States (Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor and Perak) are affected by flooding, with the state of Pahang is the worst hit with 23,416 people affected. The local emergency management authorities are leading the relief efforts in both countries, with support from the Red Cross and other national humanitarian partners.

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Analysis
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Intersection of Gender and Disability in Humanitarian Responses in Asia and the Pacific

The impacts of natural disasters and complex emergencies are disproportionally felt by people with disabilities, who are among “the most socially excluded groups in any displaced or conflict-affected community.” Women and adolescent girls with disabilities “are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and violence, including gender-based violence (GBV)” and often face difficulties in “accessing support and services that could reduce risk and vulnerabilities”. Exclusion from social networks, discrimination and stigma often increase vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation.

Women and girls with these underlying risks and vulnerabilities often suffer from a greater impact of COVID-19. In the recent Policy Brief on ‘A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID 19’ the United Nations highlighted that people with disabilities are at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus and developing more severe health conditions. Due to exclusion and discrimination, they are facing difficulties in accessing health care and life-saving procedures during the pandemic, and they are particularly disadvantaged by the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19.

In July 2019, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee published Guidelines on the ‘Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action’ which set out essential actions that humanitarian actors must take in order to effectively identify and respond to the needs and rights of people with disabilities. The humanitarian guidelines are the first to be developed with and by people with disabilities and their representative organizations in association with traditional humanitarian stakeholders.

In line with the objectives of the Guidelines, this brochure aims to provide practical guidance on including people with disabilities and their families in humanitarian programming and coordination by highlighting four case studies that illustrate good practices and examples in humanitarian settings in Asia and the Pacific.

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Fiji — Emergency Response
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(©DFAT)

Fiji: Tropical Cyclone Yasa Situation Report (as of 6 January 2021)

Highlights

  • Assessments and initial distribution of relief assistance are continuing throughout affected areas. According to authorities, relief has reached every affected community in the Northern and Eastern Divisions with more than 37,000 food ration packs and NFIs delivered. Around 900 households have received seedlings to help rehabilitate damaged farms;

  • The number of Evacuation Centres has decreased to 35 (all in the Northern Division), currently accommodating 803 persons. All schools have been cleared as evacuation centres and should be ready to receive students when the new school year is starting in about two weeks;

  • The Pacific Humanitarian Team (PHT) opened an operations room in Labasa for all partners operating in the north. This will help to further enhance coordination and liaison between humanitarian partners and governmental counterparts;

  • HMAS Adelaide, an Australian navy vessel, reached Fiji waters on 30 Dec and has begun its support of TC Yasa relief efforts by assisting distribution of NFIs and other relief items to remote areas, helping to rehabilitate damaged and destroyed school buildings as well as providing safe drinking water.

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2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview

2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview

Over the course of the year, humanitarian needs and human vulnerabilities have grown across countries in Asia and the Pacific due to the health and economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The region was also battered by particularly harsh period of monsoon rains, tropical cyclones, floods, and landslides, resulting in a doubly difficult year for the world's most densely populated and disaster-prone region.

In the context of COVID-19, humanitarian agencies are overcoming increasingly complex challenges to reach the most vulnerable people affected by the mutually compounding socio-economic and humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, climatic disasters, and ongoing conflicts.

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2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview (page 2)

2020 ASIA PACIFIC HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE OVERVIEW OCHA Page 2

This year, the humanitarian community has launched response plans in 28 countries that have identified and prioritized over 97 million people who were most vulnerable and in most need of life-saving assistance in Asia and the Pacific.

Through these plans, the UN and partners have called for US$3.9 billion to fund humanitarian responses focused on the the most urgent needs of men, women, and children in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, DPR Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Pacific (14 countries including Fiji, Vanuatu, and Samoa), Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Viet Nam.

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Philippines — Feature
UNOCHA PHILIPPINES - Malinao Municipality, Albay Province - 0002 - DJI 0515 (1)-3
Barangay Baybay in Malinao, Albay Province, a week after Typhoon Goni made landfall. (OCHA/Martin San Diego)

Philippines: Responding to a Triple Crisis

In the Philippines, a country with an average of 25 typhoons per year, 21 active volcanos and regular earthquake threats, addressing natural hazards requires a whole-of-society approach.

In many parts of the country, the ground is saturated with water, so even minimal rainfall causes flooding.

In Catanduanes, the 12th-largest island in the Philippines, a family whose livelihood depends on copra – dried coconut meat used to make oils – is struggling to make ends meet. Not only has the price of coconut oil steadily declined since the beginning of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the family’s coconut trees have been destroyed by the series of typhoons that have hit the area.

They are not alone in their struggle.

Triple crisis

The Philippines is currently dealing with a triple crisis: COVID-19, Super Typhoon Goni (known locally as Rolly) and Super Typhoon Vamco (local name Ulysses).

In early November, Super Typhoon Rolly, the most powerful tropical cyclone thus far in 2020, made landfall in the Philippines and affected 1.9 million people in 8 of the country’s 17 regions, leaving an estimated 845,000 people in need of assistance.

Typhoon Rolly was soon followed by Tropical Storms Atsani (Siony) and Etau (Tonyo) that struck Luzon and Visayas for three days. A week later, Category-4 Typhoon Vamco swept through central Luzon and affected 4.2 million people in almost the same eight regions battered by Typhoon Rolly.

In the Philippines, COVID-19 is adding another layer of complexity in what is already a difficult year, with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and almost 9,000 deaths.

The private sector leads the response

The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), a Connecting Business initiative (CBi) Member Network, has had its hands full. Working closely with the Government of the Philippines, the UN and other humanitarian organizations, PDRF is a partner agency representing the private sector.

“When a natural disaster hits a country, local economies pay the price,” said Gustavo González, UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines.

“Transportation is paralysed; value chains are disrupted and markets depleted. We see now a growing engagement of the private sector in developing early warning systems and preparedness as well as in engaging in early recovery activities. For the Philippines, this is not a cost, but a resilience-building investment. In the Philippines, PDRF is at the forefront of this new generation of emergency responses to natural hazards.”

The PDRF Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been on alert since April 2020 and monitors the situation while sharing warnings as needed.

PDRF is active on various fronts, visiting affected areas to assess and respond to damage; providing daily situational reports to its members; and leading the private sector response and engagement with regards to disasters.

Response activities have included, among others, fundraising, cash assistance to 2.8 million families, support to 92 hospitals, and capacity-building for pandemic management to 2,103 health workers nationwide.

For the recent typhoons, activities have extended to the deployment of vehicles, medical supplies, drinking water, ready-to-eat meals, call and charging booths, and relief packs, and a team of engineers deploying to help restore communications in typhoon-hit areas.

Private sector rescue operations

With 17 of 60 active member companies on heightened alert, PDRF has coordinated 16 rescue operations and helped to rescue 67 individuals.

PDRF also maintains the Hazard and Disaster Analysis for Business Resilience (HANDA) disaster information management system. HANDA is a Geographic Information System Mapping (GIS)-based platform that shows current information ranging from areas with reported flooding, casualties, number of people missing, and more (see data below). PDRF uses a survey to update the dashboard, which is available to network members.

Impact of and response to the triple threat and field visits

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and OCHA invited PDRF to join the Joint Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis for the affected regions.

Commenting on CBi’s role, Mr. González said: “The UN has greatly benefited from CBi’s expertise to expand our resilience-building partnership with the business community, as it has provided a strategic entry point for the private sector to engage in disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness and opened a fruitful collaboration with the UN.”

Following another trip to Abay, the UN released an appeal for US$52.6 million to address immediate and early recovery needs of the areas hardest hit by Super Typhoon Goni and Typhoon Vamco.

Areas particularly vulnerable to typhoons and their populations do not have time to recover from one natural disaster before the next one hits. For this reason, PDRF supports the efforts of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises to recover from crises as well as initiatives to build their resilience.

The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) is a joint endeavour supported by OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) that engages the private sector in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. For more information, visit www.connectingbusiness.org/ or find them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

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Humanitarian Responses to tropical cyclones in the VietNam, Cambodia, and the Philippines

Typhoons Cyclones Floods Asia Pacific Humanitarian Responses Philippines Vietnam Cambodia LaoPDR OCHA 13Nov2020

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Lower Mekong Region: Storms and Floods Humanitarian Snapshot (as of 20 October 2020)

Lower Mekong Region: Storms and Floods Humanitarian Snapshot (As of 20 October 2020)

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Feature
IMG 5715 (2)
Children in a camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar. (OCHA/Pierre Peron)

International donor conference to call for urgent humanitarian support for Rohingya refugees

US, UK, EU and the UN Refugee Agency will co-host a donor conference on 22 October to promote support for Rohingya refugees and host countries.

  • There is a significant funding gap in the international response to the crisis this year, with contributions to date covering less than half of what is needed.

  • The co-hosts will call on the international community to provide much needed funding to assist Rohingya refugees, host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar.

The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will bring the international community together this month to address the Rohingya crisis. At a virtual conference, they will urge countries to increase assistance for Rohingya refugees, host communities, and internally displaced people in Myanmar, more than three years since the latest phase of the crisis began in August 2017.

The UN has appealed for more than $1 billion in aid to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year, but so far less than half has been contributed. This leaves a significant funding gap, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference, which will take place on 22 October, aims to raise urgently needed funds to help vulnerable displaced Rohingya living in and outside of their native Myanmar. The funds raised are also expected to support critical services in host communities throughout South and Southeast Asia.

The conference will be an opportunity for the co-hosts to reiterate that any sustainable solution to this crisis must include the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees and other displaced people to their homes or to a place of their choosing. In this respect, the co-hosts will repeat the Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire and the cessation of fighting to enable safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all communities in need of assistance.

Stephen E. Biegun, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, said:

“The United States is proud to stand with the UK, the EU, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as partners in leading this call to sustain the international crisis response to assist Rohingya refugees and other displaced people, as well as strengthen investment in affected host communities.  As the world’s most generous donor, we are a catalyst for the international humanitarian response and call on others to contribute to this cause – both longstanding partners as well as new and aspiring donors.”

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:

“The Rohingya people have faced horrific brutality and were forced to flee their homes in the worst circumstances imaginable.  We have taken action against the architects of this systemic violence, including through sanctions and we will continue to hold those responsible to account.

“The UK has also been a leading donor since 2017 to alleviate humanitarian suffering of the Rohingya. The world must wake up to the severity of their plight and come together now to save lives.” 

Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said:

“The Rohingya refugees have the continued full support from the EU at this critical time. Humanitarian partner organisations on the ground and host communities have responded with true solidarity to the plight of the Rohingya refugees. We are committed to step up our support to pledge further humanitarian, development and stabilisation assistance. The international community must strengthen its shared efforts towards reaching a sustainable solution – one that cultivates conditions for voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees.”

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said:

“Solidarity with the Rohingya people means more than just meeting their basic needs. Refugees, like everyone else, have a right to a life of dignity and the chance to build a safe and stable future.”

Since the latest displacement of Rohingya during the exodus from Myanmar in August 2017, the overwhelming majority have been hosted in camps in Bangladesh. There are currently 860,000 Rohingya in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement, while other countries in the region host up to an additional 150,000 Rohingya refugees.  An estimated 600,000 live in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Across South and Southeast Asia, many displaced Rohingya continue to live a life on the margins with no access to basic healthcare, clean drinking water, a reliable food supply, or meaningful work and educational opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened living conditions, made access to services even more challenging, increased the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and exacerbated the risk of infectious diseases for displaced Rohingya living in crowded camps, such as those in Cox’s Bazar and in Rakhine State.

Notes to editors

  • The conference will run from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Washington; 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Geneva; and 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Bangkok on 22 October 2020 and will be live-streamed on https://rohingyaconference.org/

  • Funds raised at the conference will go to international organisations and non-governmental organisations working to alleviate the crisis on the ground in Myanmar, throughout the region, and as specified by the UN-led Joint Response Plan (JRP) in Bangladesh.

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Analysis
c19 rcce

COVID-19: Community Insights from the Asia Pacific Region - Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Pakistan (September 2020)

Introduction

Communities are key in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Only by understanding how people communicate, what they know, their needs, and gaps in understanding about COVID-19, can humanitarian organizations achieve a community-driven response that will reduce the spread of the virus. Pillars of the humanitarian field have repeatedly emphasized the need to ensure that humanitarian organizations listen to and address the feedback they receive from communities, but they must also look for and support community-driven solutions (Core Humanitarian Standards, The Grand Bargain).

Collecting perception data through surveys is just one of many ways of understanding how communities are thinking, feeling, and behaving around COVID-19. These surveys should be seen as a first step towards understanding community needs better and should be followed up with continuous engagement that actively reaches out to the most vulnerable. Data presented in this report was collected through the Asia Pacific Risk Com­munication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Working Group’s community perception surveys in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. This report aims to present a short synthesis of the results to better understand community needs around COVID-19 and therefore design appropriate communi­ty-based responses.

Data from the community perception surveys are automatically uploaded into an online inter-agency dashboard, which is pub­licly available here. Organizations and stake-holders wanting to get involved with future rounds of the community perception survey should get in touch with any of the co-chairs listed on the last page of this report. Based on the collected data, the following key actions are rec­ommended. Interpretations of findings and recommendations must be contextualized and triangulated.

Recommendations

  • Stigma is a key challenge in all four countries. Almost half of all respondents in Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar believed that a specific group is at fault for the spread of COVID-19. Those perceived to be at fault differs by country.

    • Findings suggest that more work on addressing stigma is essential to foster community cohesion and address discrimination, particularly against vulnerable groups such as migrants. Continuing to listen and analyse whom individuals held responsible for the spread of COVID-19 is key to making people feel heard, while also clarifying misconceptions about groups perceived to be responsible for spreading the virus.

  • Awareness of COVID-19 is universal in Myanmar, Indonesia, and Malaysia. However, in Pakistan, nearly 10% of respondents were not aware of COVID-19.

    • Findings suggest that in Pakistan more information on COVID-19 through multiple channels needs to be pro-vided, with a focus on reaching people relying on traditional media and face-to-face communication.

  • Washing hands, wearing masks, and staying at home are the top COVID-19 prevention measures across the four countries.

    • Overall, participants are clear on COVID-19 preventative measures. Instead of blanket messaging that may contribute to ‘messaging fatigue,’ communicators should find out which questions remain unanswered in local contexts and seek to answer these.

  • Information most sought by surveyed communities includes treatment options and what to do if a family member is sick. Additional research and literature emphasises that individuals are more likely to follow instructions to keep others safe rather than themselves.

    • Findings suggest that people are interested to hear about what is being done to find treatments and vaccines against COVID-19. Moreover, the findings suggest that content should give practical tips on how to keep family members and others vulnerable to the disease safe.

  • More than half of all participants shared that they have worries and fears related to COVID-19. The main worries for respondents were around losing a loved one and getting sick (which 73% of respondents frequently worry about). Respondents also reported that they are frequently worried about the health system being overloaded (72%). This shows a significant emotional and mental stress that individuals are facing in addition to other challenges (e.g. economical) and highlights the importance of a response that acknowledges and addresses psycho-social needs.

    • Accessible and localised mental health and psycho-social support are key. Engagement should focus on actionable advice on how to keep family members safe and care for them.

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Interactive

Humanitarian Data Portal for COVID-19 in Asia Pacific

This humanitarian data portal developed by OCHA puts together regional-level information on the COVID-19 Crisis in Asia and the Pacific: all in one place, interactive, and searchable.

It presents data on the impact of COVID-19 on people and humanitarian operations, as well as providing insight on how the international community is working collectively to respond to the crisis. It includes an overview of the various health and multi-sector response plans, with funds required and people targeted by each plan.

The portal also has baseline data and indicators that are useful for understanding potential and underlying vulnerabilities.

Click here or on the image below to access the COVID-19 Humanitarian Data Portal. For further information or questions, please send an email to: Pierre Peron, peronp@un.org.

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SG report

Pandemic Response in South-East Asia Must Address Rising Inequalities, Says New UN Report

30 July 2020 - The United Nations has commended governments in South-East Asia for acting swiftly to stem the most serious health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Robust regional cooperation, coordinated by ASEAN, has also resulted in South-East Asia reporting significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths compared to most other global regions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on South-East Asia issued today however warns that these early successes must be translated into addressing the serious socio-economic setbacks which threaten to further deepen inequalities across the region.  

“As in other parts of the world, the health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has been significant across South-East Asia — hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway. And it has revealed new challenges, including to peace and security,” shared UN Secretary General António Guterres, adding that while the region has much work to do, it also has formidable capacities at its disposal.

The new UN report examines how COVID-19 has affected eleven countries in South-East Asia and proposes action-oriented recommendations on mitigating immediate impacts and planning pathways out of the crisis.

“The Brief highlights the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, particularly workers in the informal economy. The crisis is threatening to push them back into poverty and unemployment. Responding to the pandemic and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals are closely interlinked. We need a future that is more equitable, sustainable and resilient,” noted United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

Moving forward, four areas will be critical in the region’s plans for recovery: tackling inequality, bridging the digital divide, greening the economy, and upholding human rights and good governance.

The uneven landscape of social protection systems has placed tackling inequality at the centre of both short and long-term recovery efforts, according to the report. Increased investments to strengthen health systems and accelerate progress towards universal health care will be critical to support those excluded from formal policy and social protection measures.

Digital technology has also proved to be a critical tool in response to the pandemic. However, the benefits it offers are beyond the reach of the 55 per cent of South-East Asia’s population who remain offline. A regionally coordinated and scaled up effort is needed to put in place next-generation infrastructure networks and ensure universal digital connectivity, highlights the Brief.

The crisis presents an opportunity for countries to re-orient their development towards sustainability particularly through green recovery packages. Stimulus packages should be directed to industries that are low-carbon, resource efficient and aligned with environmental and climate objectives. By phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, countries could finance most or all of their current stimulus packages. Such measures would create massive fiscal space and greatly boost low carbon alternatives such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Brief further underscores that countries in South-East Asia and their leaders can play an important role in upholding human rights and good governance practices in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders can leverage community-based organizations, promote inclusion, participation and unity; and speak out against discrimination.

The report is part of a series of policy briefs issued by the United Nations that examine the sectoral and geographical dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world.

The full policy brief can be accessed at: https://bit.ly/SEAPolicyBrief

A recording of the media briefing by the ESCAP Executive Secretary can be viewed at: https://bit.ly/ESBriefing

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Pakistan — Feature
Pakistan1 1
Screening activity with the District Health Team in Kotkai Village in the Laddah subdivision, Pakistan. Credit: EHSAR

Pakistan: Fighting COVID-19 and other health emergencies

Since the beginning of the year, the Education Health Social Awareness Rehabilitation Foundation (EHSAR) has been supporting the outpatient departments of three health facilities in Pakistan’s South Waziristan District. With funding from the Pakistan Humanitarian Pooled Fund, the foundation carried out free medical consultations and provided much-needed medication to hundreds of patients every day.

When Pakistan declared a health state of emergency and lockdown due to COVID-19 in March, local health authorities imposed the close-down of all outpatient departments across the district.

EHSAR was quick to adapt and re-programme its efforts, thanks to flexible arrangements that have been put in place by the Pakistan Humanitarian Pooled Fund (PHPF) and other Country-based Pooled Funds (CBPFs) that are responding to COVID-19. 

Some reprogramming allowed ESHAR to engage in immediate tangible support through public information campaigns and the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), soap, masks, sanitizer and gloves, in close liaison with relevant local health departments.

In agreement with the health local authorities, EHSAR was also able to support the three health facilities’ readiness and response capacities and distribution of medical supplies and clinical equipment. Through reshuffling its team from general outpatient care to emergency cover for the newly established quarantine and isolation wards, EHSAR was able to respond to the increasing needs.

The team was fully equipped with PPE and available 24/7 to deal with any emerging situation relating to COVID-19 and any other critical emergency. This also included two well-equipped ambulances for free referral.

Later in March, at the request of the health department, EHSAR also carried out screening of an Islamic missionary group staying in a mosque in the Laddah subdivision of South Waziristan. The Deputy Commissioner South Waziristan and Additional District Health Officer appreciated EHSAR’s active response to COVID-19 on their official pages and conveyed their messages to continue the efforts in light of health department instruction and the greater interest of targeted poor and marginalized people.

The Pakistan Humanitarian Pooled Fund is one of OCHA’s 18 Country-based Pooled Funds (CBPFs). For OCHA’s CBPFs, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local partners are key in the COVID-19 response and reaching people in need. Many of the 18 funds have long-standing partnerships with national and international NGOs, which has made it easy to come together and prioritize funding.

CBFPs have been critical instruments in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and channelling resources to where they are most needed. So far, US$161 million has been allocated to support efforts, with more than half of that amount going directly to NGOs. Additional countries are being identified under the Global Humanitarian Response Plan.

The latest information on funding and allocations is available in real time via https://pfbi.unocha.org/COVID19.

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Media

A new approach to saving lives: CERF in Bangladesh

In an innovative approach to dealing with the effects of severe flooding in Bangladesh, the United Nations is using the latest in data and predictive analytics to forecast the next major monsoon floods, gauge likely impacts – and take action – before possible disaster hits. On 4 July a high probability of severe flooding was forecast for mid-July along the Jamuna River in Bangladesh, with one-third of the area’s total population likely to be affected. That warning was the trigger for the UN to immediately release $5.2 million from CERF to help communities urgently prepare and protect themselves. The money went to three participating agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to enable them to prepare to distribute cash, livestock feed, storage drums, and hygiene, dignity and health kits.

Read more here.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Background
Report

Highlights from the Archive

Asia Pacific: Human Rights Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic (22 June 2020)

Asia Pacific: FAO warns multiple impact of viruses, plagues and economic damage will fuel hunger (1 June 2020)

Asia Pacific: FAO announces new agreement to protect vulnerable family farmers and their farm animals from volcanic eruptions takes shape in the Asia-Pacific region (18 June 2020)

Asia Pacific: COVID-19 Risk Communications and Community Engagement 4W Dashboard (4 May 2020)

Asia Pacific: Combating the dual challenges of climate-related disasters and COVID-19 (4 May 2020)

Afghanistan: COVID-19 Access Impediment Report (29 April 2020)

Afghanistan: A young doctor’s fight to stem the spread of COVID-19 (4 May 2020)

Afghanistan: A safe space for children and families returning from Iran (15 May 2020)

Myanmar: "Stop the fighting, combine forces against a common enemy: COVID-19" -Humanitarian Coordinator (4 May 2020)

Myanmar: UN Launches European Union/Switzerland-Funded Humanitarian Flights (11 May 2020)

Myanmar: Humanitarians maintain life-saving support to internally displaced people as COVID-19 outbreak evolves (6 May 2020)

Nepal: COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan Calls for US$108 Million (1 June 2020)

Pakistan: Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 (1 June 2020)

Papu New Guinea: Revised COVID-19 Multi-Sector Response Plan Call for US$ 105 Million (1 June 2020)

Philippines: Engaging Vulnerable People and Communities in the COVID-19 Pandemic Response (12 May 2020)

Philippines: Single mother in Mindanao survives domestic abuse, earthquakes, and COVID-19 (7 July 2020)

Philippines: How the Philippines is quietly implementing a more localized COVID-19 humanitarian response (Part1) (Part 2) (Part 4)

Pacific: UN and Partners Launch the Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan (7 May 2020)

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