Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Bangladesh: UNCERF to support anticipatory action to monsoon floods
  • Myanmar: Civilians flee conflict in Rathedaung Township, Rakhine State
  • Afghanistan: Humanitarians concerned about impact of extended lockdown measures on the most vulnerable
  • Bangladesh: CERF allocates five million US dollars to support the response to Cyclone Amphan
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Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan: A girl with her younger baby brother, who was born with a handicap, and cannot walk. She and her family fled conflict and found refuge in Nahr-e-Shahi village, set in a barren land, 20 kilometers away from Mazar. Hundreds of families fled from conflict-affected areas of Faryab and Balkh and settled in IDP villages outside of Mazar City. As the conflict is still ongoing, they have not been able to return home and bought their own land and are building their houses with assistance from NRC(supported by the AHF). Photo: OCHA/ Charlotte Cans

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Key Figures

86,000
Newly displaced ppl in Afghanistan (2020)
1.5M
People affected by locusts in Pakistan
40%
Decrease in immunizations in Philippines
6.6M
People in Need in Pakistan due to COVID-19
99,000
Migrant workers returning to Myanmar

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Contacts

Pierre Peron

Regional Public Information Officer, OCHA ROAP

Michel Saad

Deputy Head of Office, OCHA ROAP

Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Philippines — Feature
AA
Soon after the series of powerful earthquakes jolted North Cotabato Province including the Tulunan town, UNFPA in the Philippines, with support from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), started working with Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress Incorporated (MOSEP) and other local partners. Photo: A MOSEP staff on her way to visit a GBV survivor to provide cash support under the Cash for Protection program. @UNFPAPhilippines

Philippines: Single mother in Mindanao survives domestic abuse, earthquakes, and COVID-19

TULUNAN, NORTH COTABATO, The Philippines  --- The rainy season has come again, and for "Sarah" (not her real name), a single mother in her late 20s from Tulunan, it only brings back bitter memories.  Keeping an eye to her little store and her two young children, aged three and one, Sarah vividly remembers the pains that she went through because of her partner.  

“This rain reminds me of those years of verbal abuse from my partner and how he eventually left me and the two kids,” she said, holding back tears.

It was when she was filled with anxiety after being shaken by a series of earthquakes in October 2019, Sarah with her two sons in tow decided to visit her partner, who was working away from home as part of the citizen auxiliary force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  “The children were missing their father so much that I thought I would pay him a surprise visit.” Sarah was not at all prepared for his reaction when he said, “Leave now. I am now with another woman.” Sarah and the two boys left hurriedly, in disbelief. 

“I thought of taking my own life at that very moment,” Sarah recalled. “But I watched my children.  They are so young and innocent.  They would still need a mother around.”  

The idea of a failed relationship and uncertainty as to how to raise her little sons by herself alone, distressed Sarah giving her sleepless nights.  However, she did not file a complaint against her partner and instead settled for monthly financial assistance. Sarah and her young sons immediately moved to her mother’s house, and with a little capital that she had saved, Sarah opened a small business and put all her energies in it. “The income is however barely enough to put three meals on the table,” she recalled.

1 out of 4 Filipino ever-married women experience intimate partner violence

Sarah is one of those 26% of Filipino ever-married women aged 15-49, who have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence committed by their husband or partner (the National Demographic and Health Survey, 2017). Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Center for Women’s Resources reported that more than 16 million Filipino women were ‘economically insecure’. The report also showed that those living in poverty were vulnerable to gender-based violence(GBV).  And now that the COVID-19 outbreak and associated community quarantine measures have resulted in forcing women to get stuck at home, there have been increasing reports warning of the rise in domestic violence.  

Soon after the series of powerful earthquakes jolted North Cotabato Province including the Tulunan town, UNFPA in the Philippines, with support from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), started working with Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress Incorporated (MOSEP) and other local partners, to address the physical, emotional, and socio-economic consequences of GBV in evacuation centers established in the earthquake-affected communities. UNFPA’s support through MOSEP includes providing care for survivors, helping women to navigate the judicial system to report abuse, and raising awareness about the causes and consequences of GBV among young people and men, and the project has continued in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic and quarantines. 

MOSEP’s Executive Director, Ms. Mariam Ali, said “GBV can escalate among those couples whose homes are hit by an external crisis, such as earthquake or typhoon or armed conflict. If the abusers believe in violence as a solution, or mistakenly think that women are lesser than men, then the stress and uncertainty brought about by such an emergency can increase the risk of abuse.” 

“Cash for Protection,” Hope, and Freedom

Sarah was among the 49 women who benefited from UNFPA’s new initiative implemented with MOSEP entitled the “Cash for Protection”, to protect women from gender-based violence and provide a social safety net for the survivors.  Each target woman receives a cash aid worth PHP 10,000 (approximately USD 200) from the  “Cash for Protection” initiative.

“Many women in abusive relationships do not leave their violent partners, because of financial dependence. They are not confident if they can survive and support their children by themselves alone.  Because of natural disasters and now with COVID, these women are even more unsure of their potential to become independent. This is exactly why this cash-transfer assistance is so significant and meaningful for these vulnerable women because it helps them to break ties with their abusive partners, help them move on, give them a sense of empowerment, ownership, and resilience, standing on her own two feet,” Ms. Ali of MOSEP highlights.

Sarah was at a town hall where MOSEP supervised the distribution of ‘cash for protection’ to GBV survivors like her, as the government eased the two-month-long community quarantine against the coronavirus pandemic to allow some economic activities to resume in the communities.

Sarah was grateful for UNFPA’s ‘Cash for Protection’ support.  “I will use some of the money as additional capital for my small business,” she shared with a smile back on her face.  “It would be a lie if I say I don’t remember the painful memories.  But at least, the six years of an abusive relationship that I had to endure is gone, it’s over,” Sarah said.  “I will spend the remaining money for the needs of my sons, and also save a little for our future.”

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Situation Report
Afghanistan — Emergency Response
Afghanistan 3 July
Source: Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Afghanistan: Operational Situation Report on the COVID-19 Multi-Sectoral Response (1 July 2020)

Situation Overview

Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) data shows that as of 1 July, 31,836 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan have tested positive for COVID-19. Some 15,651 people have recovered, and 774 people have died (18 of whom are healthcare workers). 72,996 people out of the population of 37.6 million have been tested. Almost five per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff. The majority of the deaths were people between the ages of 40 and 69. Men in this age group represent more than half of all COVID19-related deaths. Kabul remains the most affected part of the country in terms of confirmed cases, followed by Hirat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces.

The Government of Afghanistan announced on 6 June that it was extending the nationwide lockdown for three more months, issuing new health guidelines for citizens to follow. The Government has also extended the closure of schools for three more months until the end of August. Additionally, all hotels, parks, sports complexes and other public places will remain closed; certain public transport facilities, such as buses carrying more than four passengers, will not be allowed to travel. All government offices have reopened with public servants attending in two shifts and on alternate days. According to reports, while lockdown measures have officially remained in place, enforcement has been lenient. Measures to contain the spread of the virus continue to differ across provinces where local authorities decide on implementation of lockdown measures. While provincial lockdown measures continue to periodically impede humanitarian movement, the situation has significantly improved in the last few weeks, with fewer obstructions reported.

Humanitarians remain concerned about the impact of extended lockdown measures on the most-vulnerable, particularly people with disabilities and families who rely on casual daily labour and lack alternative income sources. According to WFP’s market monitoring, the average wheat flour price (low price & high price) has increased by 15 per cent between 14 March and 1 July, while the cost of pulses, sugar, cooking oil and rice (low quality) increased by 32 per cent, 22 per cent, 40 per cent, and 21 per cent, respectively, over the same period. FSAC partners have also noted that the purchasing power of casual labourers and pastoralists has deteriorated by 4 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively (compared to 14th March).

While implementing activities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, humanitarians continue to respond to other ongoing and emerging humanitarian needs. During the reporting week, 14,242 women received antenatal and postnatal care from midwives deployed through Mobile Health Teams (MHTs). 3,342 people were treated for trauma care by Health Cluster partners as conflict continues in many parts of the country. Five health facilities in contested areas were rehabilitated by Health partners. 2,159 children aged 6-59 months received treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and 6,658 children aged 6-59 months received treatment for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) during the reporting period. 2,366 pregnant and lactating women (PLW) received targeted supplementary feeding programmes (TSFP), whereas 2,904 PLWs received Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling and maternal counselling during the reporting period. 820 Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases were identified and referred for case management to Family Protection Centres (FPCs) across 17 provinces. Five unaccompanied and separated children were reunited with their families in Daykundi province. Protection partners provided legal assistance to 23 people in Kabul and Logar provinces. 243 dignity kits were distributed to women and girls across four provinces. As part of its regular programming, WFP distributed food to 414,253 food insecure people between 18 and 24 June.

(Download Full Situation Report)

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Situation Report
Myanmar — Emergency Response
myanmar 3 July

Myanmar Flash Update: Humanitarian Situation in Rathedaung (30 June 2020)

This update is produced by UNHCR and OCHA in Myanmar, in collaboration with the Maungdaw Inter-Agency Group and broader humanitarian partners. It was issued on 30 June 2020. The next update will be issued as more information becomes available.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The security situation in northern areas of Rakhine State remains volatile, with ongoing fighting and an increased presence of security forces in the area of Kyauk Tan village track in Rathedaung Township.

  • Humanitarian partners are working to assess the scale and severity of impact on civilians, however numbers are difficult to verify due to fluidity of the crisis.

  • According to initial estimates, based on reports by local partners and public sources, some 1,500 people have been newly displaced across downtown Rathedaung, with a further 1,300 displaced in Buthidaung, Ponnagyun and Sittwe townships.

  • Rathedaung hosted some 14,575 internally displaced people (IDPs) prior to the ongoing escalation of hostilities.

  • Some assistance has been provided to people displaced, but access to assess and respond to needs remains a challenge, particularly in rural areas.

  • The new displacement is further aggravated by COVID-19 situation, placing affected communities at additional risk, and adding to response challenges.

(Download Full Flash Update)

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Flood Prone Area
Transporting food packs in a flood prone slum area in Metro Manila. Photo credit: ACCORD

A series on localization: How the Philippines is quietly implementing a more localized COVID-19 humanitarian response (Part 2)

Faith-based groups (FBGs) have always played a critical role in responding to emergencies in the country. Throughout the years, they had established strong links with local government, religious and community leaders, at-risk communities, affected population, as well as with the military. Just like other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), FBGs' engagement for localized COVID-19 pandemic response is considered game changing in terms of areas covered, number of people reached and distinct operational presence that runs similar to the government structure at the national up to the local level.

How do faith-based organizations support local government and at-risk communities?

Though still in its infancy, the Shared Aid Fund for Emergency Response (SAFER), a locally led fundraising platform for humanitarian response, has been activated multiple times since its establishment in 2018, including now for the COVID-19 pandemic.

To augment the SAFER initiative, The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) has activated around 68 dioceses all over the country since March and has been directly supporting various local governments and affected communities. With robust partnership from the private sector and local patrons, NASSA was able to raise PhP 1.6 billion (US$31.6 million). So far, it has implemented a localized distribution of food and provision of cash and gift certificates to 225,000 families directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic in several provinces in the country, including urban poor communities in Metro Manila.

Only a few weeks into the lockdown, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) has partnered with NASSA through Caritas Manila to distribute Php 1,000 ($20) grocery vouchers to 7.6 million families in Metro Manila. The partnership is part of the Project “Ugnayan” (Contact), a Php 1 billion cash transfer program to support over a million at-risk households. NASSA is one of the major partners alongside with other private foundations based in the National Region (NCR). PDRF recognizes the strength of NASSA to easily mobilize its social action community volunteers in areas affected by the lockdown and enhanced community quarantine. Founded in 2009, PDRF is the country's leading private sector network that coordinates disaster risk management among its members and partners.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said that 90 percent of the assistance came from local donors. “It proves that no matter what the circumstances, even those affected, or at-risk are still capable of providing support and share whatever they can. This is how we understand the nature and context on why our patrons and local donors can easily shell out certain amount of money and ensure those in great need are taken care of”, Gariguez added.

While some local funds are still available, NASSA is worried about how to sustain the humanitarian response if the crisis prolongs for several months or until the next year. Part of the network’s advocacy is promoting a “Bayanihan” approach to the provision of aid within the community and to allow communities the means to recover on its own. Bayanihan is the Filipino term used to describe how community members work together out of a spirit of generosity and selflessness to achieve a positive outcome, which in this case is to protect the most affected population.

International support will take time to reach the most vulnerable, according to the assessment by NASSA. With the various restrictions on mobility impacting conventional delivery of aid, they see an opportunity that will allow greater engagement of inter-faith organizations at the local level to fill the gaps and sustain solid partnership among community groups to sustain assistance in the context of the coronavirus crisis. Currently, some 30 organized FBGs are actively supporting affected local governments and at-risk communities in the country with projects re-aligned to focus on COVID-19. A number of common service partnerships have been established by FBGs and are ready to be rolled out, including cash provision and supporting local markets and short-term livelihood.

Bike Scouts contribute to psychosocial health through essential community connections

With more than 15,000 members across the country, the Bike Scouts of the Philippines is a volunteer group that has been providing free rides to health staff and daily workers in a number of provinces. Their services also include the delivery of essential goods and important documents at the barangay level, the lowest government administrative unit.

For the COVID-19 response, Bike Scouts acted as an essential messenger service between otherwise isolated communities, especially providing free rides and allowing free use of bikes to those who could not afford to travel due to lockdown and had lost their day jobs. Part of Bike Scout’s routine is the “house-to-house connection” where they ask households how they are coping up with the crisis, and then collect and record feedback, which they share with the local government.

“I think our main goal, apart from travelling around and supporting in the risk assessments and other logistics related concerns, is to help restore the essential need for communication between human beings. In a way, what we are doing is a form of psychosocial response, but unlike anything else it specifically addresses the need for human connection as a fundamental element of resilience and hope”, said Myles Delfin, Founder of the Bike Scout of the Philippines.

Around 3, 000 bikers have been actively providing direct support to the local government and at-risk communities across the Luzon and Visayas regions. Bike Scouts has been instrumental in reaching geographically isolated areas especially in the series of Rapid Information, Communication and Accountability Assessments (RICAA) organized by the Humanitarian Country Team’s Community of Practice on Community Engagement.

As COVID-19 pandemic to a large extent immobilized the conventional humanitarian system in terms of its ability to deliver aid, CSOs continue to mobilize resources, although limited, in order to fill the gap and ensure that provision of support to the people in need is not disrupted.

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Myanmar: COVID-19 Situation Overview

MMR COVID Situation Report 19June2020

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united-nations-cerf-central-emergency-response-fund-vector-logo

UN humanitarian chief to release up to $140M in CERF funds for anticipatory-action projects

United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has agreed to allocate up to $140 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support a series of anticipatory-action interventions over the next 18 months, starting with $15 million in Somalia.

Somalia is facing a projected increase in humanitarian needs due to food insecurity, which has mainly resulted from the impact of the desert locust infestation, flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, as Mr. Lowcock has detailed in an article published today by The Economist, humanitarian assistance is typically provided only after a disaster is in full swing, although suffering is widespread by then.

As the UN humanitarian chief points out, it costs perhaps 50 times as much to save a child who is already suffering from malnutrition as it does to intervene earlier. He adds that it is four times cheaper to feed a goat than to replace one.

In 2019, OCHA supported the country team in Somalia in setting up a drought anticipatory action framework. Two other frameworks, for drought in Ethiopia and flooding in Bangladesh, will be finalized soon.

Even without drought, food insecurity in Somalia is projected to increase to 22 per cent of the population in a crisis state of food crisis (IPC3+) between July and September, exceeding the threshold for the anticipatory action pilot.

The framework in Somalia involves work at OCHA headquarters and at the country level in close cooperation with UN agencies, the World Bank, climate research centres, national authorities and other partners.

Each of the anticipatory-action frameworks includes an adequate coordination mechanism at the country level; thresholds/triggers for action; sets of activities to be implemented when thresholds are reached; and defining the parts of the plan that will be funded by CERF.

To maximize the approach’s impact, OCHA is engaging closely with the World Bank on the analytics, as well as the planning and release of finance. CERF funding would be complementary to Somalia Humanitarian Fund disbursements.

OCHA is also collaborating with the London-based Centre for Disaster Protection on the design of an independent evaluative learning component that will accompany the pilots throughout the planning, disbursement and implementation stages. Findings will feed into the decision-making regarding the further development of a CERF anticipatory action approach. 

As noted in the article in The Economist, Mr. Lowcock has been “championing early intervention in situations where data can reliably warn of impending crises and where a speedy response can make a big difference”.

In such cases, an anticipatory-action plan can be prepared in advance, involving a number of agencies as well as authorities on the ground.

The initial funding for anticipatory action in Somalia could make a big difference in the lives of Somalis, and to the future of anticipatory interventions. By proving that the concept works, Mr. Lowcock hopes to “change the whole mentality and mindset of dealing with predictable emergencies.”

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Indonesia — Emergency Response
Indonesia 3 July

Indonesia: Situation Update on COVID-19 (23 June 2020)

As of 23 June, the Government of Indonesia has announced 47,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across all provinces of the country, with 2,535 deaths. The Government has also announced that 19,241 people have recovered from the illness, and over 666,000 specimens have been tested by using the Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay and the Molecular Rapid Test for Tuberculosis methods.

This Update provides a summary of key achievements of each of the National Clusters in the response to COVID-19 within the last three months.

Health

Indonesia is one of the 30 Member States that support the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, an initiative launched on 29 May for the global community to voluntarily collect knowledge, intellectual property, and data in response to COVID19, and to ensure accessibility to vaccines, tests, treatments and other health technologies to all.

During May 2020, WHO supported the Government of Indonesia in the procurement and distribution of medical supplies for a total value of about $1.4 million. In June and July, cold chain and medical supplies were provided to 22 hospitals. UNDP, WHO, and IOM provide 33 ventilators through the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB).

An important part of the work of health cluster members is the advocacy for the sustainability of essential reproductive health services, including for the availability of safe blood products, services for high-risk pregnant women and childbirth, the availability of contraceptives, and the availability of antiretroviral treatments for those who need it. UNFPA distributed individual kits for pregnant women, birth mothers and newborns through 100 private clinic midwives.

In the area of nutrition, partners from the National Health Cluster support the development and dissemination of IEC (Information, Education and Communication) materials to the general public as well as specific targeted population groups such as adolescents, pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and toddlers throughout all provinces of Indonesia. They also work to distribute nutrient-friendly food, oversee the distribution of formula milk, issued a joint statement on Infant and Child Feeding support in the first thousand days of life and provided online counseling.

Logistics

In coordination with health partners, the National Logistics Cluster coordinates the provision of customs clearance services at entry points as well as the transportation, storage, handling, and distribution services throughout Indonesia as needed, including by logistics partners including the Indonesian Logistics and Freight-forwarding Association, PT Pos and Indonesian Red Cross. The National Logistics Cluster documentation on COVID-19 pandemic response can be accessed here.

Displacement and Protection

Automatic conversation services through the WhatsApp application (SHIRIN) have been developed and maintained to facilitate access to information related to COVID-19. The National Cluster for Displacement and Protection is very active and has the following sub-clusters and working groups:

  • Shelter: Two sets of guidelines on the Provision of Community-Based Shelter for Quarantine and Isolation Facilities related to COVID-19 and Workers and Humanitarian Volunteers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic were developed and disseminated.

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: The Hand Washing with Soap (CTPS) Guidance for various situations was developed with the Ministry of Health while the Guidance on CTPS Facility in Schools was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture.

  • Camp Coordination and Camp Management: Interim Guidelines for Improving Preparedness and the Operation of the COVID-19 Outbreak Response in Humanitarian Situations have been translated into Indonesian and disseminated by IOM, who also conducted a localization training/workshop on camp coordination and camp management.

  • Child Protection: Three cross-sectoral guidelines for children requiring special protection (data sharing procedures; temporary care for children / families; assimilation, reintegration and suspension of detention) were launched by the Task Force for the Acceleration of the COVID-19 response in May 2020. UNICEF, UNHCR and IOM are working together to support the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment and Child Protection in the drafting of inter-border refugee protocols and for children separated from their parents.

  • Protection of the Elderly, People with Disabilities and other Vulnerable Groups: The sub-cluster has developed an 'Inclusive Training Package' that is available to civil society groups, and the Ministry of Social Affairs-managed volunteers and social workers. Continuing partner activities include the preparation of protection assistance packages, provision of accessible hand washing facilities, capacity building, preparation and dissemination of IEC materials, and advocacy for inclusive service needs in the regions.

  • Protection and Management of Gender Based Violence and Women's Empowerment: The provision of support for assistance services for victims of gender based violence continues, using service protocols during the COVID19 pandemic in Jakarta. Protocols and guidelines that have been prepared are on:

    • Receiving complaints through hotline services

    • Receipt of complaints via email

    • Face to face meeting services

    • Outreach services

    • Client pick-up services

    • Assistance in the legal process (police, prosecutors, and trials)

    • Victims assistance services

    • Safe house referral and health services.

  • Cash and Voucher Assistance: The Working Group has a focus on increasing the capacity of various organizations to exercise the cash and voucher assistance through knowledge sessions.

  • Community Engagement: This Group has created Community Engagement Guidance, developed a feedback mechanism that is accessible to the community, and conducted outreach through different organizations or forum in Central Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara, Yogyakarta and Bali. A training workshop to develop communication and outreach strategies for behavior change was conducted on 17 June. Good Practices of People Helping People are documented here.

Education

The National Cluster on Education has completed a home study guidance for children with disabilities, the development of an offline material storage platform at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the development of a Teacher Capacity Building Action Plan by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the creation of Frequently Ask Questions about the use of the School Operational Assistance funds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food Security and Agriculture

The development of a roadmap for the 'Mitigation of the Impact of COVID-19 and Policy Measures in the Food Systems in Indonesia' is underway. Activities by partners from this sub-cluster include assistance to a family food garden, assistance to farmers, assistance in agricultural and fishery infrastructure facilities, food aid, and non-cash assistance, for a total of around 9 billion rupiah in funding.

Early Recovery

The National Cluster on Early Recovery works to:

  • adjust the SP4N-LAPOR! programme operation;

  • develop a framework for synergizing the reporting system between the Regional Government and the Central Government;

  • develop a mechanism for big data analysis;

  • implement advocacy and inclusion training activities;

  • implement innovative financing analysis; and

  • implement the development of a Village Fund monitoring instrument.

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Women in Gosaba (West Bengal, India) working to repair a broken embankment in the response to Cyclone Amphan (Photo: UNICEF)

UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocates five million US dollars to support the response to Cyclone Amphan

OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS RESIDENT COORDINATOR IN BANGLADESH

Dhaka, 25 June 2020 – Last month, Cyclone Amphan caused large scale destruction of livelihoods in the South Western part of Bangladesh. The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated five million US dollars (US$ 5 million) to complement the Government’s response to the people in need.

The CERF allocation will provide high-impact life-saving assistance to a prioritized caseload of 250,000 persons in the districts of Khulna and Satkhira in Khulna Division and, in Barguna and Patuakhali districts in Barisal Division. The CERF funding is provided to five UN agencies: FAO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WFP under the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinator. The targeted vulnerable population will benefit from emergency WASH, Shelter, Protection, Nutrition and Livelihood support as well as cash assistance.

On 20 May 2020, Cyclone Amphan made landfall near Jammu Island, West Bengal. Situation Analysis and Anticipatory Impacts Assessments were issued prior cyclone landfall. It activated the Humanitarian Preparedness and Response Plan (HPRP) in line with the contingency plan for climate-related disasters in time of COVID- 19 pandemic of the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT). The Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) co-led by the Department of Disaster Management and CARE completed the Joint Needs Assessment, UN Women coordinated a Rapid Gender Analysis and the HCTT Cyclone Amphan Response Plan was finalized with the support of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR). It integrates some components of the IFRC’s appeal launched on 28 May 2020. The plan seeks US$ 25 million to assist 700,000 people in Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Patuakhali, Barguna, Bhola and Jashore.

"Once again, the Sundarbans played a critical role in lessening the impact of the cyclone in Bangladesh. The protection of natural treasures must be an integral part of Disaster Risk Reduction strategies to complement man-made flood defense systems. The CERF-funded projects have a strong focus on women, children and persons with disabilities and will be delivered in line with COVID-19 mitigation measures," said the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, Ms. Mia Seppo.

Red Cross Red Crescent Movement organizations, national and international NGOs including members of the Start Fund Bangladesh are supporting the national response (see detailed in updates and monitoring reports). The UN notes the importance of the contributions from partners to complement the government’s response and to facilitate a quick and smooth recovery process for all persons affected by the cyclone.

For further information please contact:

Kazi Shahidur Rahman, Humanitarian Affairs Specialist, Resident Coordinator’s Office : shahidur.rahman@one.un.org

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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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Myanmar Armed Forces & Arakan Army Conflict-generated Displacement in Rakhine and Chin States

Myanmar Armed Forces & Arakan Army Conflict-generated Displacement in Rakhine and Chin States (

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Afghanistan: Snapshot of Population Movements

afg population movement snapshot 20200617

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4W: Response to Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh

20200621 hctt nawg cyclone amphan response 2nd round 4w report Page 1

Produced by the Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT) in Bangladesh.

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Human Rights Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Asia Pacific

This brief was developed by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Regional Office for South-East Asia. In addition to highlighting the challenges, this brief provides policy advice and recommendations to ensure a rights-based approach is adopted in response to all disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Download Full Brief with Recommendations)

Response challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges to the protection of human rights around the world, including the Asia-Pacific region. Civil and political rights are being pushed aside and, in some cases, racism, xenophobia, hate speech are being allowed to flourish. These trends need to be countered with robust efforts to promote fundamental freedoms of expression and association, while providing targeted support to the most vulnerable groups.

Specifically, some of the challenges identified are:

Civic space and freedom of expression are being constrained

The scale of the COVID-19 crisis has required countries to adopt extraordinary emergency measures to contain the spread of the disease. In the midst of this, disproportionate use of executive power has been reported in many countries while the role of democratic institutions has been shrinking. Moreover, in the context of rising ethno-centred nationalism, populism, authoritarianism, the pandemic can provide some governments with a pretext for repressive measures unrelated to COVID-19 to silence critics and restrict political rights.

The less transparent authorities are in decisionmaking, the more likely they are to use censorship and repression. As highlighted in a recent report by Amnesty International, blanket prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous concepts, such as “false news” or “spreading misinformation” are sometimes not reasonable or proportionate to protect public health.

Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, has expressed concern over hundreds of accounts of official retaliation against journalists under the guise of spreading disinformation. This practice is especially prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region according to the International Press Institute which has been tracking pandemic-related violations of press freedoms. These punitive measures have also been used to silence any criticism from health workers, whistle-blowers and the general public. Internet restrictions, cyberpolicing and worrisome surveillance practices have also been reported across the region.

Hate speech, racism, xenophobia are increasing in the region

Discriminatory rhetoric against marginalized populations such as minorities, refugees and migrants has surged in the context of COVID-19. False stories accusing these vulnerable groups of being responsible for the transmission of the virus have resulted in a rise of discrimination and in some cases violence against the targeted group. While some of the rhetoric has been fueled by disinformation that spreads on social media and mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, some populist politicians and ethno-nationalist groups have also exploited public fears to push their exclusionary agendas.

There has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in Sri Lanka and in India, where social media has been flooded by allegations that Muslims were conspiring to spread the virus. which resulted in acts of violence.10 Thailand has witnessed a rise in xenophobia, including anti-Chinese rhetoric online, while in New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission received 311 allegations of racism and harassment towards Chinese and Asian people between January and May of this year.

There have also been concerns that the pandemic amplifies the vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning (LGBTIQ+) groups, which are already discriminated against in many countries. The pandemics also risks creating a context conducive to increased persecution.

The rise in hate and racism in the region is rooted in structural failures to address inequalities and the erosion of democratic values and systems and it serves to further undermine social cohesion. Failure to hold accountable those who propagate hate speech can create a sense of impunity among their followers and allow racism and abuses against victims to become normalized.

In addition to creating an environment of fear, such hateful rhetoric risks compromising the effectiveness of public health measures as targeted communities might feel discouraged from seeking testing or treatment voluntarily.

Human rights of migrants are being denied

Migrants have been hit particularly hard by the travel restrictions and economic decline sparked by the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, migrants face unique challenges which include limited access to health care, exclusion from social protection systems and many are vulnerable to being subjected to arrest and administrative detention. Even if healthcare access and testing are provided to migrants, undocumented migrants may not seek those services for fear being detained or deported.

In India, following the announcement of the lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19, millions of impoverished migrants were left without any income. Such migrant workers are at the highest risk of being forced into debt and predatory interest rates even to provide for their daily subsistence. This can trigger decades of intergenerational bondage, including the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of children.

In addition, migrants are falling victim to rising xenophobia and discrimination which has resulted in crackdowns in the region. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, recently raised his concerns over raids by Malaysian authorities to detain migrants in locked-down areas. These raids resulted in the detention of more than 350 migrants in overcrowded immigration detention facilities. In addition to the risk of infection in such overcrowded facilities, it remains unclear whether the migrants have access to lawyers and can challenge their detention and deportation.

Another vulnerable group which has been impacted by the wave of border closures are refugees and asylum seekers who are often fleeing conflict, disasters or persecution. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says that out of 167 countries that have fully or partially closed their borders, at least 57 countries are not making exceptions for people seeking asylum, which is a denial of their rights as persons in need of international protection.

UNCHR has called on countries in the Asia-Pacific region to do more to aid boats full of refugees and asylum seekers in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea that have been unable to come ashore. The agency has reminded countries that “rescue at sea and allowing the persecuted to seek asylum are fundamental tenets of customary international law, by which all states are bound.”

Persons deprived of liberty are vulnerable to infection

Prisoners, detainees and persons deprived of their liberty are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection due to prolonged confinement in often overcrowded and under-resourced detention facilities. According to the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, prisons in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Bangladesh are at over 200 percent capacity, while the Philippines has a 464 percent overcapacity rate, making it the second most overcrowded prison system in the world.

The large percentage of pretrial detainees is a major factor in the overcrowding in Asia-Pacific. In the Philippines, for instance, 75 percent of detainees have not been convicted of any crime. In Bangladesh, pretrial detainees make up approximately 80 percent of detainees, while in India, the number is approximately 67 percent.18 In response to the pandemic, some countries have suspended visits to prisoners, restricted movement inside prisons or cancelled temporary release schemes. These actions have led to riots and aggravated the physical and psychological conditions of detainees.

Early releases, short-term amnesties, noncustodial sentences and other measures to improve conditions in some prisons in Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Afghanistan are noted as positive trends to reduce overcrowding. However, the scale of those measures has been deemed insufficient to counter structural issues with prisons of Asia-Pacific which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

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Taal Volcano
A man washes ash from his horse as the Taal Volcano erupts in January 2020 in the Philippines. (Photo: Jojo Rinoza/LIC/S)

FAO: New agreement to protect vulnerable family farmers and their farm animals from volcanic eruptions takes shape in the Asia-Pacific region

18/06/2020, Bangkok – While increasingly unpredictable, and seasonal, climate-related disasters continue to cause massive hardships for farmers and their animals in Asia and the Pacific, the world's most disaster-prone region, volcanic eruptions can cause catastrophe.

In particular, during the last two centuries, volcanic eruptions in rural areas of Indonesia and Philippines have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of human lives, and untold numbers of farm animals. One eruption in the early 1800's, that initially was reported to have killed 10,000 people, also resulted in the deaths of 80,000 others who perished due to starvation.

Today, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Animal Protection signed a Letter of Agreement (LoA) which commits cooperation on the project 'Livestock emergency preparedness and response for areas at high risk of volcanic eruption'.

The project was launched last year by FAO and the United States Agency for International Development's Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) with the aim to mitigate the devastating impact of unpredictable volcanic eruptions especially on poor communities, most of whom rely on food and agriculture for a living. Today's 'virtual' signing of the LoA sets work on course.

Protecting farmers and animals from the devastation of volcanic eruptions

"Since the emergence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) FAO has increasingly been involved in the management not only of animal diseases and emergencies but also in addressing threats to livestock during natural disasters. It is a great opportunity to work with World Animal Protection which has a long-standing experience in moving the world in protecting animals especially during disaster situations caused by volcano eruptions." said Katinka de Balogh, FAO Senior Animal Health and Production Officer.

The FAO-USAID/OFDA project will be implemented in Indonesia, Philippines and Vanuatu, some of the countries with the most active volcanoes in the world. From these case studies, a regional tool will be developed to assist all countries in planning how they may better prepare their rural communities to face such hazards.

Connected from Costa Rica, Gerardo Huertas, the Global Director of Animal In Disasters at World Animal Protection noted in his remarks "with nearly twenty volcano operations conducted in three continents we have been working with the UN and other global partners to recognize farm and working animals as vital part of the indicators the UN identified in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This LoA is the reflection in the field of all our efforts and we are proud to make it happen with our FAO colleagues."

"This LoA provides for a new paradigm shift -- a big step in moving forward and introducing new ways of working and delivering the required results across the next sixteen months of the project," said FAO's Andrew Sobey, a Liaison and Operations Officer

"In times of crises, partnerships are especially important and FAO is committed to bringing together the best expertise in the world to support member states in preparedness and protect lives and livelihoods that depend on food and agriculture." added Allison Moore, FAO's Senior Field Programme Officer.

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Feature
Market Assessment
Market assessment and consultation in Navotas City. Photo credit: SAFER

A series on localization: How the Philippines is quietly implementing a more localized COVID-19 humanitarian response (Part 1)

Over the last decade, the Philippines has been at the forefront of mainstreaming a more localized humanitarian response. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has put a spotlight on the need to further accelerate this process. The pandemic fundamentally underscores not only the central role played by civil society organizations, local governments and at-risk communities themselves but also how the international humanitarian community must adjust to the challenges that lie ahead. With the social and economic consequences of movement restrictions imposed since early March being keenly felt, it has become imperative to support localized action to protect the most vulnerable communities and beat the spread of the virus.

From the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) to the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) position paper, and the Philippines Humanitarian Country Team’s COVID-19 operational response plan and its Call to Action, there is a commitment across all levels - global, regional and national -  to advance the localization agenda in the context of COVID-19 response, build on the agenda agreed at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and support good practices that reinforce a local-first approach in the provision of aid.

It may be easier said than done, as it is not something that can simply be turned on or activated overnight. These urgent calls for greater localization need to articulate how support and resources can be efficiently operationalized to meet various challenges in the country. This goes beyond enhanced humanitarian leadership and coordinated response action as local governments will each respond according to their context and affected people will likely need the combined support of both government and other agencies.

But through the years of responding to various emergencies and capitalizing on existing in-country capacity, the humanitarian community in the Philippines has sought to embrace a localized approach. The experience gained points to the benefits of collective action. There is also recognition that success requires the sharing of resources or capacities from several agencies, the direct engagement of both local governments and the at-risk communities, an openness to innovation and private sector engagement, and recognition of the imperative to consistently put front and center the affected population.

So, how can a humanitarian response be localized amid a pandemic? What is the likely impact in terms of supporting national and local resources and capacities in the long run? And how are civil society organizations (CSOs), faith-based groups (FBGs) and people’s organizations (POs) responding to the challenges of the new coronavirus and what is their experience in implementing activities across the country?

Localization in a period of disruption

Most CSOs, FBGs and POs are also affected by the impact of COVID-19 in terms of access to funding and even mobilizing people at the community level. The minimum health standards required by government and overall lockdown and community quarantine protocols present a unique dilemma, as these not only restrict access and mobility to engage people and provide the usual lifesaving support, but also put the staff and volunteers in greater danger. Most field front-line community organizations cannot afford to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), except for facemasks which they are forced to use for two to three days due to lack of supplies and delays in delivery.

Though a constraint, this has not stopped a consortium of CSOs/POs and the massive networks of the Church dioceses across the country from keeping their programmes up and running at the community level, including those areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as well as from accessing hard to reach areas or those considered as geographically isolated locations. It is their strong and established relationship with local government and the community that has enabled the flexibility and mobility necessary to engage affected people despite the stringent implementation of movement restriction protocols.

The activation of the Shared Aid Fund for Emergency Response (SAFER), a locally led fundraising platform for humanitarian response, was able to raise PhP 500,000 (US$10,000). with this modest initial amount, local humanitarian partners were able to support 1,400 informal family settlers (IFS) in Navotas City North bay Boulevard in Metro Manila. Majority of the recipients are daily wage earners severely affected by the ECQ. Despite the lockdown imposed across the country and limited time to mobilize in-country resources, SAFER was able to raise a minimum amount coming from donations from various individuals and other private networks or groups. Once additional funding is secured from core partners, SAFER will resume and look to expand its provision of in-kind donations and food kits.

“We are still in the process of continuous fundraising since our main goal is to support IFS in the National Capital Region and other affected local communities across the country. It’s really tough for us since despite what we’ve accomplished in the previous response, SAFER has to compete with big foundations and established big organizations to access funding. So, we continue to appeal to big companies, corporations and foundations to maximize our platform as we have a proven record in dealing with emergencies and maximizing partners and networks at the local level”, said Alaine Figueras, Program Director of SAFER.

SAFER is supported by Caucus of Development Non-Government Organization (CODE-NGO), People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDDRN), National Secretariat for Social Action Center (NASSA), and Humanitarian Response Consortium (HRC). For COVID19 response, it is directly working with POs based in Metro Manila such as Aksyon sa Kahandaan sa Kalamidad at Klima (AKKMA) and Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Maralitang Navoteño Foundation Inc. (NLMNF).

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Situation Report
Myanmar — Emergency Response
COVID19 Myanmar Situation Report 1 June 2020

Myanmar: COVID-19 Situation Report (as of 1 June 2020)

  • After a relatively low rate of cases, 17 new cases were confirmed on 30 May alone, bringing the total to 228 cases, six fatalities and 138 recoveries across the country. Two cases were confirmed in Rakhine State, while no cases have been confirmed in camps or sites for internally displaced people (IDP) or in communities affected by the conflict.

  • Return of migrants from bordering areas continues. More than 80,000 migrants returned since March, according to initial estimates by IOM.

  • New academic year to resume mid-July, with many government schools used as quarantine facilities to be vacated and prepared for classes.

  • Myanmar Government states that repatriation of Rohingya is likely to be delayed after the first COVID-19 case in the refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.

  • COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts continue by government, ethnic health organizations and humanitarian partners across all conflict-affected areas and in quarantine facilities for returning migrants.

  • A total of US$47.6 million has been contributed to the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), including $11.8 million to the HRP COVID-19 Addendum (18 per cent funding of revised total requirement of $262.3 million) – FTS

  • Union Parliament agrees to seek US$700 million loan from the International Monetary Fund for COVID-19 response

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Bangladesh — Emergency Response
Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh
A man affected by Cyclone Amphan in Satkhira District, Bangladesh. (Photo: Care Bangladesh)

Bangladesh: Cyclone Amphan Response Plan Calls for US$ 24.6 Million to Assist 700,000 People

On 20 May 2020, Cyclone Amphan made landfall near Jammu Island, West Bengal at 5.00 pm BST with 130-140 km/h wind speed. It is estimated that 26 people lost their lives and 7 people were injured due to falling of trees, boat capsizes, wall collapses and drowning. The cyclone affected 10 million vulnerable people in 19 districts.

The Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT) co-led by the Ministry of Disaster Managment and Relief (MoDMR) and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office met on 20 May 2020 to be ready to complement Government-led response efforts. The Needs Assessment Working Group (NAWG) led by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and CARE coordinated a rapid joint assessment of the situation in collaboration with national authorities and partners with presence in the most impacted areas. COVID-19-sensitive community engagement materials for cyclone Amphan (including post-cyclone) were already made available here. Situation Analysis and Anticipatory Impacts Assessments were issued in the day’s prior cyclone landfall. It activated the Humanitarian Preparedness and Response Plan (HPRP) in line with the HCTT contingency plan for climate-related disasters in time of COVID-19 pandemic. On the 31 May, the HCCT Response Plan for Cyclone Amphan was finalized and published.

Strategic Objectives

  • SO1: Ensure an effective, principled and equitable humanitarian response which does no harm and abides by the duty of care;

  • SO2: Support national authorities and CSOs in delivering assistance to most vulnerable communities capitalizing on comparative advantages (expertise, field presence);

  • SO3: Reduce vulnerabilities and restore the safety, dignity and resilience of the most vulnerable populations.

Humanitarian Needs Analysis

The response plan covers the following sectors: Child Protection, Gender-based Violence with Sexual and Reproductive Health, Food Security, Nutrition, Shelter and WASH. A section on Coordination complements the sectoral plans. The decision of the inter cluster coordination team was to focus the response in 7 of the 9 most affected districts: Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Patuakhali, Barguna, Bhola and Jashore.

The Joint Needs Assessment coordinated by the NAWG informs that:

  • The internal displaced population needs immediate food, water and emergency shelter support.

  • Urgent house repair, housing support to the extreme people with damaged house. Protection systems for women, girls and children must be urgently re-established/reinforced.

  • Emergency livelihood support is required for those who lost their income-generating activities.

  • Immediate desalinization of open water sources and emergency repair/replacement of latrines and tube-wells.

  • Children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition must receive urgent nutrition assistance.

Budget Required

The overall budgetary requirement for the 4-month response is US$ 24,634,700. The budgetary requirements consider other existing and upcoming plans in the country i.e. those related to COVID-19 such as the Health Response and the upcoming Socio-Economic Recovery to ensure that there is no duplication and that the immediate life-saving assistance is sustained in the medium/long-term.

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Indonesia — Coordination
Indonesia COVID

Indonesia Multi-Sectoral Response Plan to COVID-19

Given the magnitude of the emergency, this COVID-19 Response Plan is a joint commitment by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) to support the Government of Indonesia, and covers a range of issues through a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach which, during the first six months of the emergency focuses on life-saving and early recovery activities.

The multi-sectoral response plan is aligned with the WHO Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, and the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-economic Response to COVID-19. The plan will need regular updating to match the unique and evolving nature of this emergency with the most effective and appropriate activities.

In line with the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19, the main goal of this HCT/UNCT Multisectoral Response Plan to COVID-19 is to support the Government of Indonesia’s efforts in preparing and responding to the pandemic, and will be guided by three objectives:

  1. Containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and decreasing morbidity and mortality.

  2. Decreasing the deterioration of human assets and rights, social cohesion and livelihoods.

  3. Protecting, assisting and advocating for particularly vulnerable groups, such as refugees, pregnant woman, people with disabilities, elderly, internally displaced people, migrants and host communities.

The estimated financial requirements for the implementation of the plan until the end of 2020 amounts to over $US 113 million (see plan for breakdown by sector).

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Pakistan desrt Locusts
(Photo: FAO)

FAO warns multiple impact of viruses, plagues and economic damage will fuel hunger in Asia and the Pacific

28 May 2020 Bangkok, Thailand - While the world fights to slow the spread of COVID-19, the worst pandemic experienced in a century, countries in South Asia are simultaneously responding to plagues of locusts, cyclones and a deadly livestock disease, all of which threaten to worsen hunger and the livelihoods of millions of people, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today.

Swarms of Desert Locust, which originated in Africa, have moved swiftly into west Asia attacking vegetation in parts of Iran and Pakistan, and are now threatening crops in India. These swarms are the worst experienced in more than a generation.

Fall armyworm, a maize-destroying pest that migrated to Asia from Africa in 2018, has also spread across the continent and has arrived in Australia.

Meanwhile, African swine fever (ASF) has re-emerged in the Asia-Pacific region, and for the first time been detected in India. ASF, which ravaged pig production in China in 2018 and 2019, has also been discovered for the first time in the Pacific subregion, with cases confirmed in Papua New Guinea.

Cyclones such as Amphan and Vongfong have added to the damage in some of the countries already overstretched by their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiple challenges for an already challenged region

While the lockdowns of countries across the region in response to COVID-19 have taken their toll on the economies, lives and livelihoods of millions of people, the convergence of these plant pests, severe storms and animal diseases will only add to the suffering.

"We cannot and must not under-estimate the damage to lives and livelihoods that the convergence of these crises will have on food security and hunger in this part of the world, already home to most of its undernourished people," said Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Deputy Regional Representative and Head of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. "While we continue the battle to save lives and contain the spread of COVID-19, we must now fight a war that has multiple fronts and various enemies here in the Asia-Pacific region," Kim added.

African swine fever -- Not dangerous to humans but deadly for pigs and financially ruining for people who rear them

African swine fever (ASF) has become an enormous concern in Asia with some 5,000 outbreaks across the region and more recently into the Pacific subregion. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 50 percent of the world's pig production (2018 figures according to FAO STAT) and pork is one of the major sources of animal protein.

The disease, deadly to pigs but not harmful to humans, resulted in the deaths and culling of millions of pigs in China, the country that was originally hardest hit in 2018 and 2019. This year, for the first time, ASF was discovered in India. Again, authorities are trying to respond to the outbreak while simultaneously responding to COVID-19 and the threat of locusts.

Desert Locust -- world's most destructive pest

Desert Locusts can devour huge amounts of vegetation, including wild plants, trees and grasslands, but they also attack vegetable crops and fruit trees.

A single swarm of Desert Locust can cover an entire square kilometer and contain some 80 million insects. FAO experts estimate the number of locusts could grow twenty-fold in the upcoming rainy season in South Asia unless extra measures to counter the swarms are put in place. FAO is tracking the movements across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Fall armyworm marches on across Asia

In many countries affected by Fall armyworm (FAW), COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in pest management activities being reduced or ceased entirely. FAO has published a guidance note for responding to outbreaks of FAW during the simultaneous challenges faced by countries' responses to COVID-19

Farmers need significant support to manage FAW sustainably in their cropping systems through Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities. FAO has launched a Global Action for FAW Control as a response to the international threat that FAW is posing for food security and the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

FAO continues to support member nations in Asia and the Pacific

"FAO continues to support our member countries in response to these and other threats in these very challenging times," said Kim. "Together we'll get through this, for our own sake, and for the sake of future generations."

Contact: Allan Dow, FAO Regional Communication Officer: allan.dow@fao.org

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Situation Report
Nepal — Coordination
Nepal COVID19 Preparedness and Response Plan

Nepal: COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan Calls for US$108 Million

The COVID-19 pandemic is having far reaching impacts, well beyond the health crisis and needs, with the most severe impacts experienced in the poorest countries and those most vulnerable to humanitarian crises including natural disasters, such as Nepal. To date, the outbreak in Nepal has been relatively limited with 603 confirmed cases as of 24 May 2020. The Government of Nepal is leading the response to the outbreak in Nepal but, as in many countries, capacities are stretched, and international solidarity is required.

The Government of Nepal has developed the Health Sector Emergency Response Plan and different institutions within the Government are working together to ensure that preparedness and response plans are ready to mitigate the effects of the measures put in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Government-led clusters have been activated, and international partners in-country are working closely with Government counterparts to provide support where required. While the health system is being strengthened to respond to the public health emergency, and given that the impacts of COVID-19 are wider than health, the clusters are working to mitigate the impact on broader service delivery and to ensure service continuity in key sectors is maintained throughout the outbreak and the recovery period. This includes support to education services, and the provision of water, sanitation and food assistance where needed.

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are likely to be wide reaching impacts of the health system and people’s ability to access healthcare due to increased pressures on existing services and facilities, and the inability to physically access care due to lockdown and movement restrictions. These preventative measures put in place to avoid the spread of COVID-19 are having socio-economic impacts and are likely to also have humanitarian impacts, which must be mitigated. Specific socioeconomic interventions are required in complement to the more traditional emergency response to ensure that recovery is rapid and reaches vulnerable communities effectively. International partners are working with the Government of Nepal to support the inclusion of the needs of those most vulnerable throughout the response.

The revised Nepal COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan (CPRP) reflects the MoHP Health Sector Emergency Response Plan, which has a planning assumption of a caseload of 10,000 people infected with COVID-19. The CPRP is a plan prepared by the Humanitarian Country Team and the clusters working in collaboration with and support to the Government. Given the multi-dimensional impact of COVID-19, the CPRP includes a significant health component, but also highlights needs related to coordination planning and monitoring, protection, risk communication and community engagement, food security, water sanitation and health (WASH), nutrition, education, shelter/ CCCM, early recovery, and logistics. The Humanitarian Country team will continue to work with the Government towards having a joint COVID-19 Nepal Preparedness and Response Plan.

The actions undertaken under the CPRP are an investment in Nepal’s preparedness capacity for COVID19 but will also increase the preparedness and response capacity for future emergencies.

Budget

Ministry of Health and Population Response Plan: US$ 57 Million

Funding required for Preparedness in the CPRP: US$ 17.9 Million

Funding required for Response in the CPRP: US$ 90.5 Million

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Pakistan — Emergency Response
Pakistan COVID 19 Humanitarian Response Plan

Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020

Immediate health impacts on people and systems

The Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 was finalized on 22 May 2020. The biggest humanitarian need is the protection of health workers to ensure they can combat the pandemic and continue to provide essential health care services. The closure of all hospitals and health facilities, except for emergency services, has hampered the continuation of immunizations, preventive health care, pre- and post-natal care and care for other co-morbidities.

Nutrition programmes have suffered due to the outbreak, leaving over 200,000 pregnant and lactating women and 400,000 children among the most vulnerable in need of regular nutrition support in drought affected areas.

Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with 220 million people and the seventh most affected on the list of countries impacted by climate change. The most vulnerable populations expected to be disproportionally affected by the health and non-health impacts of COVID-19 total 6.65 million people which include Afghan refugees, IDPs and returnees, undocumented Afghans and people affected by natural disasters. The pre-existing vulnerabilities of such groups are further aggravated by related stressors, including family anxieties and the disruption of income generation due to physical distancing.

Indirect impacts on people and systems

Containment measures and movement restrictions are devastating the economy. Estimates indicates that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will drop by 4.64 per cent, followed by a subsequent increase in the number people living below the poverty from 50-60 million to 125 million.

A quarter of the population, some 53 million people, lives below the national poverty line and 84 million people are multi-dimensionally poor. An estimated 40-62 million people are persistently and chronically vulnerable to food insecurity while also being exposed to natural hazards. These populations are at risk of falling into increased food insecurity requiring a scaled-up response by humanitarian partners through both in-kind and cash modalities.

Women and children from the disadvantaged households, homebased workers, domestic workers, daily wage earners (small shops, self-employed persons and families) and especially pregnant women, are among the most impacted during this pandemic. All educational facilities will remain closed until at least the end of May 2020, resulting in major disruptions to learning.

Response priorities and challenges

Priorities and early achievements

Through COVID-19 National Action Plan, the Government is taking a two-pronged strategy: prioritizing efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus and address the secondary humanitarian and socio-economic impacts, which is linked to the HCT’s integrated Humanitarian Response Plan to address the humanitarian impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable. The plan aims to target 5.6 million people through to the end of the year.

The UN health response has been aligned with the pillars of the WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. Examples of activities include:

  • Developed and shared information, education and communication material (IEC) material on physical distancing and orientation guidelines for frontline workers in local languages in all provinces.

  • Collaborating with the Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) to use thousands of polio health workers to maintain and strengthen routine immunization.

  • Advocating for specific quarantine arrangements and services for women and girls and inclusion of refugees in social protection programs.

  • Development of an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) strategy that includes the training of over 10,000 health workers, provision of materials and other supplies and conducting IPC assessments at over 200 health facilities and quarantine sites.

Challenges and impact to operations

Nationally led health responses have suffered from several challenges: isolation and quarantine facilities are inadequate in number and they lack human resources, technical expertise, supplies and equipment.

The disease surveillance system is weak; e.g. the Severe Acute Respiratory Illness/ Influenza Like Illness (SARI/ILI) sentinel surveillance, which could be used in this pandemic, is not fully functional. Sexual and reproductive health service delivery is expected to be severely impacted, contributing to a rise in maternal and newborn mortality.

From a humanitarian standpoint, the COVID-19 response is taking place in the context of climate vulnerabilities and a refugee response: a series of climatic shocks combined to make those already facing social exclusion and vulnerability due to poverty and displacement, more acutely vulnerable to the virus and its impacts.

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Afghanistan: Snapshot of population movements (January-April 2020)

Afghanistan population movement snapshot

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Philippines: Mindanao Humanitarian Situation (as of 22 May 2020)

Philippines: Mindanao Humanitarian Situation (as of 22 May 2020)

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Papua New Guinea — Emergency Response
Papua New Guinea COVID-19 Response Plan

Papu New Guinea: Revised COVID-19 Multi-Sector Response Plan Call for US$ 105 Million

The revision to the Disaster Management Team’s (DMT) Multi-Sector Response Plan for COVID-19 is meant to align the multi-sector plan with the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan issued on 24 April 2020. Additionally, at the time of this version, the Department of Education and Department for Community Development and Religion have also issued their own national COVID-19 response and recovery plans.

The Government’s plan maintains a health sector focus and plans for a ‘worst case’ scenario, articulating the process of progressing into containment and subsequently mitigation of community transmission and on to recovery. It presents an opportunity to improve the core capacities of the whole of government, to see where both health and non-health sectors fit in and respond in the immediate and medium terms, and to adapt to the ‘new normal’ that this coronavirus has inevitably presented.

The DMT multi-sector response plan for COVID-19 attempts to be as simple as possible so it can be understood by all. It augments the Government’s plans and, jointly with Government partners, attempts to adequately address the primary and secondary impacts of this health emergency and the necessary measures put in place to contain and mitigate its impact. It is adequately and appropriately costed for immediate resourcing.

This plan is initially designed to address the next six months of the response and socio-economic recovery. It is an evolving document needing regular updates as the situation changes. The next review will be in three months following a light evaluation of the resources mobilised to that point and the impacts of the actions implemented.

(Download the Response Plan)

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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Philippines — Emergency Response
Philippines COVID-19 Humanitarian Response Plan

Revised Philippines Humanitarian Country Team COVID-19 Response Plan Calls for $96.2 Million to Assist 5 Million People

Initially released on the 3 April 2020, a revision of the Philippines Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) COVID-19 Response Plan was published on the 11 May 2020 and is one of 9 countries added to the May Update of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan.

The revised Philippines Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) COVID-19 Response Plan is focused on providing health interventions and multi-sectoral assistance to the poorest and most marginalized communities directly impacted by the epidemic, particularly focusing on the safety and wellbeing of women and girls. While the activities in the plan focus on the most immediate challenges, the overall strategy spans until the end of the year and the document will be periodically updated to keep up with the unique and evolving nature of this crisis, mindful of the importance of early recovery and interventions appropriate to the context of a middle income economy characterised by high levels of inequality, marginalized communities and displacement driven by natural hazards and conflict.

Impact of COVID-19

Immediate health impacts on people and systems

As of 11 Mayl, a total of 11,086 confirmed COVID-19 cases including 726 deaths have been reported in the Philippines. Out of the total confirmed cases, 54 per cent are male, with the most affected age group being 30-39 years.

As a lower middle-income country, the Philippines exemplifies the challenges of a health system in transition. The COVID-19 epidemic is adding strain to an already overwhelmed health system in a country with ongoing measles, dengue and polio outbreaks. Responding to COVID-19 may also divert attention and resources for sexual and reproductive health services. Shortages of PPE, ventilators, testing supplies, intensive care and other critical equipment is affecting the ability of health facilities to treat COVID-19 patients. Some hospitals in the National Capital Region have stopped accepting patients as they reached full capacity and/or were unable to provide adequate protection for their staff. The infection rate among healthcare workers - around 13 per cent of total confirmed cases in country - is among the highest in Asia Pacific.

The risk of COVID-19 in Mindanao is of particular concern, given the region’s fragile health system, limited number of testing centers, remote areas and IDP sites with little or no access to health services, compounded by travel restrictions between Mindanao and Metro Manila.

Stringent physical distancing measures and community quarantine have affected polio outbreak response activities and vaccination campaigns are being postponed. There are concerns that at least two million children below two years old might not be protected from vaccine preventable diseases this year.

Indirect impacts on people and systems

The Government has adopted enhanced community quarantine and physical distancing measures including the suspension of schooling, prohibition of mass gatherings, home-isolation whereby movement is limited only to access basic necessities, travel restrictions and a curfew.

According to the Central Bank of the Philippines economic growth is forecast to decline from 6 per cent in 2019 to between zero and minus one per cent in 2020. More than two million workers have been affected, mainly by temporary closures of establishments, such as manufacturing, hotel, food and other tourism-related sectors. These numbers do not include the substantial number of workers in the informal sector, particularly affecting women.

The home quarantine may cause a surge in domestic violence and the Commission on Human Rights has urged the Government to ensure GBV survivors can access legal aid and medical and psychological services.

Response priorities and challenges

Priorities and early achievements

Authorities moved quickly and with determination to halt the spread of the outbreak. The HCT COVID-19 Response Plan was mounted in support of government response efforts and targets 5 million of the most vulnerable people living in COVID-19 hotspot areas as well as those displaced in Mindanao that will require multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance. T

he overall objective of the Plan is to support the government in containing the spread of the outbreak and deterioration of living conditions of those most vulnerable or at risk in affected areas. The response approach is to front-load humanitarian interventions in the first few months before transitioning in the early recovery mode until the end of the year. To ensure the realization of this nexus approach, HCT partners are mounting an inclusive and coordinated response plan, pulling together capacities of UN agencies, international/national NGOs as well as members of civil society, including the private sector.

The HCT COVID-19 response includes interventions to earthquake-affected people in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur and to conflict-affected population in Mindanao to address their specific needs due to the pandemic.

Challenges and impact to operations

Response operations will take place in the context of pre-existing vulnerabilities brought about by conflict and natural disasters. Conflict-affected IDPs, particularly in Mindanao, will remain most at-risk, given the cramped living conditions in transitory sites and limited access to water, WASH facilities and healthcare. The ‘peace dividend’ from the 2019 creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) may not be reaped if the COVID-19 outbreak makes the lives of Bangsamoro people worse, as it may trigger further violence and displacement. Further, the peace negotiation between the Government and the New People’s Army remains fragile, despite their commitment to the COVID-19 cease-fire.

The Philippines is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world. Averaging over 20 cyclones per year and a high likelihood of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, it is likely that additional mid-scale disasters will occur in the coming months, compounding effects of the COVID-19 emergency.

Physical distancing has resulted in decrease or suspension of non-critical field missions and the suspension of several humanitarian activities due to restrictions on assemblies.

Movement restrictions provide challenges. In most cases, access to communities can be negotiated with individual local governments, particularly in areas where organizations have relief activities.

(Philippines Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) COVID-19 Response Plan)

(May Update of the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan)

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