Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Millions evacuated in India and Bangladesh as Cyclone Amphan makes landfall
  • Afghanistan: 71,000 people newly displaced by conflict since the beginning of the year
  • Philippines: Update on the humanitarian situation in Mindanao and displacement due to conflict and earthquakes
  • Launch of the Humanitarian Data Portal for COVID-19 in Asia Pacific
  • Papua New Guinea: Revised COVID-19 Multi-Sector Response Plan Calls for US$105 Million
 Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) Isolation and Treatment Centre in Cox's Bazar
A Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) Isolation and Treatment Centre in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (Photo: UNHCR)

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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Key Figures

630K
COVID19 cases in AsiaPacific(as of 29 May)
382,700
People affected by Typhoon VongFong
71,000
Newly displaced ppl in Afghanistan (2020)
80,000
Migrants workers returning to Myanmar
$96.2M
Philippines HCT COVID-19 Response Plan
$126.8M
Required for COVID-19 Response in Pakistan
70M
People affected by Cyclone Amphan

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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
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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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Pakistan — Emergency Response
Pakistan COVID 19 Humanitarian Response Plan

Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan For COVID-19 Pandemic 2020

IMPACT OF COVID-19

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.

(Download Response Plan)

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Bangladesh: Cyclone Amphan- Preliminary Impacts and Key Immediate Needs (23 May 2020)

Bangladesh, Cyclone Amphan: Preliminary Impacts and Key Immediate Needs, 23 May 2020

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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Afghanistan — Emergency Response
Transit Centre in Afghanistan
(Photo: OCHA/Linda Tom)

UN and humanitarian partners respond to COVID-19 crisis

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, partners have delivered WASH assistance and hygiene promotion activities to more than 983,496 people and provided more than 74,000 men, women, boys and girls with psychosocial support to deal with the mental health-related consequences of the pandemic.

The response to COVID-19 is taking place against a backdrop of continued violence. UNAMA’s latest preliminary figures indicate a trend of escalating civilian casualties in April from operations conducted by all parties to the conflict. The United Nations is deeply concerned by the increase in civilian harm and the deterioration of parties’ respect for international humanitarian law, demonstrated by the recent attacks on healthcare facilities, threats to healthcare workers and occupation of health facilities, failures to take all feasible precautions in the conduct of airstrikes, and the indiscriminate use of explosives in civilian-populated areas.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of affected people to access health services is critical. Humanitarians urge all parties to the conflict to facilitate unfettered access of civilian populations to humanitarian assistance and to take additional measures to ensure civilians, humanitarians, and critical infrastructure are safeguarded.

(Latest COVID-19 Flash Update)

(Latest Operational Situation Report)

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

Afghanistan population movement snapshot

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Situation Report
Philippines — Emergency Response
Typhoon Vongfong (Ambo) 20 May 2020

Typhoon Vongfong leaves trail of damage as the country grapples with the ‘new normal’

Torrential rain, violent winds and floods leave 115 people injured and two dead

(20 May 2020) Typhoon Vongfong (local name Ambo) weakened from a Category 3 typhoon to a tropical storm after traversing from central through to northern Philippines, making seven landfalls from 14 to 15 May and leaving the Luzon landmass on the morning of 16 May. The weather system dissipated to a low pressure area and exited the Philippine Area of Responsibility on the afternoon of 18 May.

According to the latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), about 382,700 people were affected in 276 barangays in Regions II, III, V, VII and CAR. While more than 180,000 have evacuated ahead of the typhoon’s arrival, local government units ordered the decampment of displaced families as soon as the winds and rains passed. All evacuation centres are closed per the DSWD report. There were two fatalities and 115 injuries reported.

With its combination of torrential rains and violent winds, Vongfong left a trail of extensive damage in its wake in a country dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak at the same time. According to initial damage reports from the NDRRMC, 3,000 houses were destroyed while 13,900 sustained damages, mostly in Eastern Samar province where Typhoon Ambo made its first landfall. The Department of Agriculture reported estimated damages to the agriculture sector at US$30.8 million (PhP1.56 billion) with 25,000 hectares affected, resulting in production losses of 65,000 metric tons in rice, corn and other high-value crops. It is estimated that 40,000 farmers have been affected. At least 23 health facilities were damaged, of which three are non-functional including a COVID-19 accredited testing laboratory. Over 120 schools have also incurred damages. Damages to infrastructure is estimated at $11.4 million (PhP525 million).

The province of Eastern Samar declared a State of Calamity and requested national government to activate quick response funds to help in the response and recovery. According to the provincial governor, the calamity funds of local government units are already depleted as they were used for the COVID-19 response.

Testing for COVID-19 hampered in the entire region

With large parts of the country under movement restrictions and lockdowns, local officials are pointing to the double challenge of keeping their residents safe from both the typhoon and COVID-19, while noting the difficulty in maintaining physical distancing throughout temporary shelters. According to local governments, evacuations took time as residents could not be transported in large numbers and evacuation centres had to be filled only to half their usual capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The typhoon also caused the temporary suspension of COVID-19 tests after it damaged a facility in the Bicol Region’s only accredited testing laboratory. The exhaust duct of the health facility’s biological safety cabinet was damaged by strong winds. The cabinet prevents contamination of samples while they are being processed for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Some 150 specimens that were scheduled to be tested in the laboratory will now be redirected to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila. In Eastern Samar, the governor reported that the province has identified isolation facilities in different towns with a total of 600 beds, of which nearly 400 are now either damaged or destroyed.

Government response to address most pressing needs

The government is leading the response, with the Office of Civil Defense coordinating with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health, military, and local authorities to provide food and other relief assistance to affected communities, which to date is valued at over $109,000 (PhP5.6 million). DSWD has activated its inter-regional relief assistance wherein 1,200 family food packs from Cebu City were sent to Northern Samar. An additional 5,000 family food packs were delivered by a military plane for distribution in Northern and Eastern Samar provinces. The DSWD field office in Bicol also provided 1,400 family food packs for Albay and Sorsogon provinces.

To support the affected farmers, the agriculture department has set aside a quick standby response fund of around $13 million (PhP700 million) for the rehabilitation of affected areas and has pre-positioned 100,000 bags of rice seeds, 10,000 bags of corn seeds and 1,100 kilograms of vegetable seeds. An initial indemnity of $1.78 million (PhP90.5 million) will be granted to 11,000 affected farmers who availed of crop insurance.

Humanitarian community to gather learning on emergency relief in times of COVID-19

OCHA and the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group are conducting a virtual assessment by tapping local partners on the ground in the affected areas. The primary objective is to understand the impact of the typhoon and identify key preparedness and response considerations by local governments and affected people while adhering to the minimum health protocols for COVID 19. The outcome of this exercise will form the basis for the review and updating of the Humanitarian Country Team contingency plan and minimum operating protocols for natural disaster and armed conflict events and align them with existing COVID-19 protocols. It will also exemplify how response to future natural disasters will look like under the “new normal.”

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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

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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Philippines — Analysis
CARE 1
COVID-19 WASH promotion with a person with disability in Mindanao. (Photo: CARE)

Engaging Vulnerable People and Communities in the COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Measures by the Philippine Government such as the intensified lockdown and enhanced community quarantine in response to the pandemic have resulted in severe restrictions on movement and physical distancing across the country. It changes the way humanitarians engage with communities and has had an impact on the capacities of national and local authorities as well as humanitarian agencies to put the most affected vulnerable people front and center of the response.

These include persons with disabilities, elderly, the sick or those with pre-conditions, urban and rural poor, women, children, indigenous people/minority groups, displaced community, slum dwellers, migrants/refugees and those considered living in the geographically isolated areas.

The “new normal” situation created by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 requires a robust and coordinated Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) strategy to help address uncertainty and varying risk perceptions.

As crucial as other forms of aid, engaging vulnerable people in the Philippines involves social and behavioral change to enable people to have access to the right information through the right channels that will help them guide their actions and make the right decisions in a timely manner under pressure. People need inclusive access to the right information not only about updates on the spread of COVID-19, testing centers, and other potential secondary impacts, but also on the Government’s overall response and recovery plans, including support from humanitarian agencies.

The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and 18 members of the Community of Practice on Community Engagement (CoPCE) are providing support to the Department of Health (DOH) to improve the feedback loop with affected people by undertaking a Rapid Information, Communication and Accountability Assessment (RICAA) in Metro Manila areas and other regions across the country.

Consultations with communities using RICAA are unlocking opportunities to improve and recalibrate existing capacities of the Government and other actors to deliver appropriate humanitarian response with RCCE activities.

Results show that if vulnerable people are given the right information and are properly consulted, they can provide invaluable insights on the COVID-19 response and recovery interventions of the Government and humanitarian organizations.

Most of the 1,767 respondents to the Rapid Information, Communication and Accountability Assessments from vulnerable people in Metro Manila and other regions have access to various channels for COVID-19 information. In the National Capital Region (NCR), the most prominent preferred channels are television (national and local), Government officials, health workers, and UN agencies (WHO and UNICEF). However, TV and social media are less preferred among persons with disabilities and people in urban informal settlements. Face-to-face consultation, more interpersonal forms of interactions, and direct engagement are still ranked higher by the youth, older persons, and persons with disabilities.

“What really worries me is that this (COVID19) virus is not like a typical fever that you can easily cure by drinking paracetamol or lots of water. It's a relief that no one from my family has acquired it. The only thing that our Barangay can do is basically to keep on telling us to stay home and of course announce when will the next distribution of relief goods be. That’s why we spend most of our time watching TV for latest news and to know what’s really going on,” said Mercie Apuda, a 42-year-old convenience store owner from Pasay City during a RICAA consultation.

Across other regions, the Department of Health ranked second after television, followed by local health workers, local government officials, community leaders, and radio. Respondents from other regions stressed the importance of combined traditional media (TV and Radio), consistent advisories from authorities (national and local), and enabling community listening environment as the best channels to engage them. Both the national Government and the Barangay (village, district or ward) Council were considered as reliable avenues in taking necessary actions on the various issues raised by the urban community.

Most respondents highly recommend improving the mode of delivery of information (it should be combined risk information and engagement with the community), accessibility (inclusive and localized platforms), and consistency in addressing gaps and evolving needs (overall accountability).

“I really don’t like that I don’t have the choice but to stay home. I know it is for our safety but for how long? I don’t think that the government can sustain providing us food for many months. Right now, we’re somehow okay because of relief goods and some support coming from relatives. When can I return back to driving my tricycle? If it is uncertain, then I have no choice but to wait longer and be contented on what we receive. At this time, it’s more problematic to worry and complain,” said Raymundo Salinel, a 62-years-old tricycle driver from Sta Cruz, Laguna, during a key informant interview.

In terms of the spread of rumours, while most vulnerable people appreciate the importance of having multiple channels, having access to too much information overwhelms and confuses them. While they recognize that some of the information they receive are rumours, they do not have the channel or platform to verify them. When they ask local officials, answers are most often incomplete, leading to more frustration.

This assessment highlights that that an accessible and inclusive platform for life-saving information is in itself not a guarantee that people fully understand information and find it useful. Aside from establishing two-way processes, amplifying the information they need requires platforms and mechanisms that provide clarity, transparency, accountability, and avenues for them to make the whole consultation process more participatory.

(Download the full RICAA Report)

(RICAA Data Interactive Infographic)

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Emergency Response
Fiji
(Photo: @UN_Pasifika)

UN and Partners Launch the Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan

The United Nations, International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent, Government representatives, International Finance Institutes, Non-Government Organisations and development actors that comprise the Pacific Humanitarian Team came together on Thursday 7 May to launch the Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan - a comprehensive regional response plan that consolidates efforts from UN and non-UN entities in the fight against the pandemic through an effective humanitarian response that strengthens healthcare systems, reinforces community engagement and protects the most vulnerable, especially women and children, older people, and those with disabilities or chronic illness.

Funding requirements of the Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan are estimated at US$ 35 million to provide assistance in education, emergency telecommunications, food security, nutrition, logistics, protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene. The plan focuses on preparedness and response actions to complement the health needs already identified by Pacific Island Countries, but also importantly, it addresses many other challenging questions that Governments and vulnerable communities are having to contend with every day. This includes the delicate task of securing critical supply chains to ensure important provisions can still enter countries in the midst of international border closures – an initiative that supports the work of the recently established Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, initiated by the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Pacific Humanitarian Team COVID-19 Response Plan highlights current priority areas of support based on concerns raised by Pacific Island Governments and affected communities. With funding requirements of the plan estimated at over U.S. $35 million, U.S. $19 million remains to be funded. The UN is urging the international community and governments to commit to fully supporting this response plan, without diverting funding from existing humanitarian appeals. Additionally, it recommends that funding should be allocated as directly as possible to local and national actors whenever they are best placed to respond.

(Download the PHT COVID-19 Response Plan)

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Situation Report
Afghanistan — Feature
Setayesh, Maisam, and Jawed
Setayesh, Maisam, and Jawed at the IOM Hirat Transit Centre. (Photos: OCHA/Linda Tom)

A safe space for children and families returning from Iran

Seven-year-old Setayesh is playing with her younger brother Maisam, age 6, in the children’s playground under the watchful gaze of their parents at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Transit Centre in Hirat, western Afghanistan. Just a day before, they returned to Afghanistan from Iran through the Islam Qala border.

“We went to Iran three years ago, but the situation has changed and now there is no work,” said their father, Jawed, while packing a few belongings from the room where they had spent the night. “If the conditions there were good, why would we come back?”

Like many others, Jawed went to Iran in the hopes of a better life for the family of four. However, with the spread of COVID-19 in Iran, employment opportunities for day labourers such as Jawed have all but dried up.

“After all our expenses, we were only able to afford the basics, but with no work, we could not stay. Setayesh had only been going to school for one year,” he added. In the first four months of this year, 272,000 people without undocumented Afghan migrants returned to Afghanistan from Iran, with as many as 15,000 returning per day in March. The number has since declined to between 500 and 600 people per day due to Ramadan religious holidays and a temporary ban on movements in Iran that has since been lifted in late April as Iran is gradually reopening its economy.

The young family was among the 95 people staying at the IOM Transit Centre that day. The majority were young men, but 18 women and 22 children were also staying on as guests. When asked about COVID-19, Jawed said, “We didn’t return because of that alone; we still have to be concerned because we have the virus here in Afghanistan as well.”

The staff at the Transit Centre, which has 64 rooms, were doing their utmost to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “We sanitize high-traffic and common spaces especially doors and handles several times a day. Once a room is vacated, we disinfect the room. We don’t allow more than four people per room, but of course, we need to keep families together,” said Aziz Rahimi, a Senior Programme Assistant working on cross-border returns and reintegration with IOM.

Handwashing stations with soap are readily available around the centre, and at least 25 suspected cases of COVID-19 have been referred to the Ministry of Public Health’s designated isolation facility in Hirat city for testing. “With some services from partners reduced or cut due to COVID-19, it is important that we continue to provide services to all who need them,” he added.

As of 11 May, nearly 4,700 people were confirmed to have COVID-19 in Afghanistan, including about 300 children. However, only 17,000 people have been tested and health experts fear the true number of people with the virus could, in fact, be much higher, threatening to worsen the situation for returnee families such as Jawed’s both because of stigmatization, which associates disease transmission with returnees, and because of other related movement restrictions and stay-at-home orders, which make finding work challenging.

With help from IOM, Jawed is hopeful that his family can rebuild their lives in Kabul with some help from their extended family who have a small plot of farmland. In addition to temporary shelter, the IOM Transit Centre also provides returnees with hot meals, dry food rations, medical, counselling and other protection referral services and cash assistance for transportation, so that they can return home. UNICEF also supports transit centres for unaccompanied and separated children complementing the work of IOM.

“We have no plans to say here; we will leave this afternoon,” said Jawed while holding on tight to his two children. “Before going to Iran, I worked in Kabul for eight years. If they accept me, I would like to go back to that job so I can support my family,” he said.

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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Myanmar — Emergency Response
Myanmar COVID-19 (18 May 2020)

COVID-19 Situation Report No. 04 (18 May 2020)

Highlights

  • 187 cases have been confirmed with six fatalities and 97 recoveries across the country, with a relatively low rate of new cases in the last two weeks(37 cases since 1 May). As of 18 May, there has been no confirmed case in camps or displacement sites for internally displaced people (IDP) or in communities affected by conflict.

  • Around 80,000 migrants have returned since March, according to initial estimates by IOM, although the number is difficult to verify.

  • WFP has launched weekly humanitarian relief flights between Kuala Lumpur and Yangon. Suspension of regular international flights will continue through 30 May.

  • Myanmar Armed Forces announced unilateral ceasefire until end of August to coordinate COVID-19 response (excluding Rakhine and Chin states).

  • COVID-19 response and preparedness coordination with ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) is ongoing in Kachin and Shan by Government Committee for Coordinating and Cooperating with EAOs for Prevention, Control and Treatment of COVID-19, including cooperation on border control measures and provision of government funding to support EAO-run quarantine center in Kachin.

  • A total of US$47 million has been contributed to the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), including $11 million to the HRP COVID-19 Addendum (18 per cent funding of revised total requirement of $262.3 million) – FTS

(DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT)

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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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Mongolia: COVID-19 Response Update - 5W (As of 10 May 2020)

Mongolia: COVID-19 Response Update - 5W (As of 10 May 2020)

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OLDER POSTS

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