Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Myanmar: “It is essential that lifesaving humanitarian assistance continues unimpeded and that humanitarian partners are given timely and safe access to the populations in need.”
  • Afghanistan: 18.4 million people in humanitarian need – six times the number only four years ago.
  • Intersection of Gender and Disability in Humanitarian Responses in Asia and the Pacific
  • Impact of COVID-19 and worsening inequalities will fuel malnutrition for billions in Asia and the Pacific
Kachin Myanmar
Displaced children play in an IDP camp on the outskirts of Myitkyina, Kachin State, Myanmar. Photo: UNICEF/Minzayar Oo

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Key Figures

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

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Contacts

Pierre Peron

Regional Public Information Officer, OCHA ROAP

Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Afghanistan — Feature
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Bibi Gul with her family was displaced by conflict to Ferozkoh in Ghor Province. Photo: Afghanaid

Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund helps displaced families in Ghor survive the winter

Bibi Gul never planned to leave her home, but when conflict erupted five years ago, she and her husband took their children and fled. Now living in Feroz Koh in Ghor province, Bibi Gul found herself alone trying to support her family during the COVID-19 pandemic. “My husband became addicted to heroin and for months he could not work. Then he left, and we haven’t heard from him since. We don’t know if he is even alive,” she said.

Bibi Gul found work doing laundry and cleaning houses. “Everything we have comes from what I earn day-to-day. My monthly income is around 1,000-1,500 AFS (approximately US $13- $20) and it is not enough to provide for the essentials,” she said.

In addition to living in a new place with no support system, the many challenges displaced families face have been intensified by the effects of the pandemic. “For the last five months, we have been living in a make-shift shelter, but I don’t know how much longer the owner of the land will allow us to stay here,” she said.

Situated in the highlands of Afghanistan, Ghor has extreme weather and one of the harshest winter seasons in the country with heavy snow and biting winds. “My oldest daughter is 11 years old. She helps by collecting cartons and plastic from the street for the heater. The long winter season in Ghor is harsh and we have not been able to warm our room. I was afraid that my children would die or become very sick. I worried we would not make it through,” she said.

Afghanaid provided Bibi Gul urgently needed winter cash aid that enabled her to purchase a wood stove and wood to fuel their new heater. The assistance, funded by the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, means people like Bibi Gul can keep their families safe and warm. It also allows them to use their money to buy food to keep their families healthy and build up financial reserves so that they are more resilient against future shocks. “I am so grateful to Afghanaid for coming to our aid. Now my children will have a warm room and I can keep them safe from illness.”

Afghanaid is a British humanitarian and development organization whose personnel have worked with millions of deprived, excluded and vulnerable families in some of the poorest and most remote communities in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) is one of OCHA’s country-based pooled funds (CBPFs). It was established in 2014 for swift and strategic humanitarian action in Afghanistan.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Myanmar — Media

The United Nations continues lifesaving humanitarian assistance in Myanmar

(Yangon, 12 February) The United Nations in Myanmar follows the unfolding events in the country with great concern, including reports of arbitrary detentions, arrests and violence, as we continue delivering lifesaving humanitarian assistance to those in need.

“The UN and its partners have, for many years, been responding to humanitarian needs caused by conflict and natural disasters in Myanmar. It is our absolute intention to continue this work also under the current circumstances,” said Ola Almgren, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar.

“It is essential that lifesaving humanitarian assistance continues unimpeded and that humanitarian partners are given timely and safe access to the populations in need,” he said, stressing “as always, our humanitarian response is guided by the internationally recognized principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence and humanity”.

Just last year, and thanks to the generous support of donors, 930,000 women, children and men in conflict-affected areas received food assistance, 250,000 people accessed essential healthcare services, and hundreds of thousands received nutrition support. Around 200,000 people were reached with specialized protection services, such as psychosocial support and efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, while approximately 75,000 boys and girls were able to continue learning. Communities also received basic relief items, such as essential shelter and household materials, and were able to access safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

“Efforts to reach people in need of lifesaving assistance must be scaled up. This year, the Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan aims to respond to the needs of close to 1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, for whom we are seeking US$276.5 million in funding,” added Almgren. An estimated 336,000 of them are internally displaced people, 250,000 of whom are in situations of protracted displacement, including around 130,000 people in Rakhine.

The United Nations in Myanmar reiterates the Secretary-General’s words of unwavering support of the UN to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.

Media contact: Valijon Ranoev, OCHA, ranoev@un.org

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Asia Pacific Humanitarian Snapshot - 9-15 February 2021

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MYANMAR

In northern Shan State, fighting between the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) or between EAOs continued in several townships during the reporting period. Over 50 people were reportedly displaced in Mansan Village in Namtu Township following armed clashes that broke out between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) and the allied forces of the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army on 13 February. Further clashes were reported between the MAF and RCSS/SSA in Hsipaw Township on 10 February, followed by clashes on 11 February between the MAF and the SSPP in Kutkai and Muse townships. The new displacement is in addition to around 1,070 people who remain displaced in three sites in Kyaukme Township due to the armed clashes since early January. Around 9,700 people remain in situations of protracted displacement in northern Shan. Meanwhile, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar reiterated the UN’s and its partners’ strong commitment to continue delivering humanitarian assistance and COVID-19 related response to around 1 million people targeted under the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.

INDONESIA

Parts of Java Island experienced torrential rains which caused flooding and landslides over the past week that have affected some 130,000 people, including 8,000 people displaced from their homes. At least seven people died, 18 were reported missing, and 17 people were injured, including due to landslides in Nganjuk District on 14 February, floods in Subang District on 11 February, and floods in Kebumen on 10 February. Local Government agencies, the Indonesia Red Cross ,and local communities have provided immediate relief assistance and have led search operations. As the rainy season continues until May 2021, more localized flooding and landslides are anticipated.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Clan violence in the Highland Region since 26 January have displaced over 2,900 people and have left 21 people dead, with hundreds were injured. Police and defense forces were deployed to protect public facilities and ensure the continuation of health services. Tribal fights are rooted in decades of ethnic tensions and land disputes. Humanitarian organizations, with support from the private sector, have provided shelter and cooking utensils, water and food, sanitation and hygiene kits to affected people. Schools that were being used as displacement sites re-opened on 15 February and people in those sites have returned to their homes. While negotiations have succeeded to an end of the violence, the security situation remains unpredictable.

JAPAN

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan on 13 February 2021, 11 PM local time. The earthquake did not cause a tsunami, nor did it affect the operation of nuclear power plants in the region, but it did trigger a massive landslide that cut off a national expressway in Fukushima. The Government reports that 152 people were injured during the earthquake and about 860,000 households experienced blackouts, with power restored by the morning of 14 February. The Prime Minister set up a task force and chaired the first ministerial meeting on 14 February to coordinate the response. The police, fire authorities, Self Defense Force, and the coast guard provided first response and aided the restSoArMatOioAn of services. The Japan Meteorological Agency has reported that the earthquake as an aftershock of the 11 March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2011. The authorities have warned that additional TONtrGeAmors of similar magnitude could happen in the coming week.

PHILIPPINES

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned that Kanlaon Volcano in the Visayas Region is in a period of unrest amid increases in volcanic earthquakes and gas emissions during the weekend. Over 50 earthquakes were recorded and a slight inflation of the lower and mid slopes has been observed, with Phivolcs warning of an increased possibility of steam-driven eruptions. Local authorities have barred public entry or any human activity around the volcano’s 4 kilometer radius permanent danger zone due to possibilities of sudden and hazardous eruptions.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Myanmar — Feature
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Myanmar: Release of the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan

On 27 January 2021, the United Nations and humanitarian partners issued the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) which seeks to mobilize US$276.5 million for humanitarian assistance and protection services for around 945,000 people in Kachin, Kayin and eastern Bago, Rakhine and southern Chin as well as northern Shan.

“The HRP explains how we aim to provide comprehensive humanitarian support to those who need it most,” said the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, Mr. Ola Almgren, adding that the HRP places protection and respect for human rights at the center of an inclusive response effort.

The 2021 HRP builds on partnerships with national partners and local civil society actors, that were strengthened as the humanitarian response adjusted to new operational realities in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The plan also seeks to strengthen links with longer-term development planning frameworks. “With an estimated 336,000 displaced people in locations covered by the HRP, of whom some 250,000 are in situations of protracted displacement, supporting progress towards durable solutions, in close coordination with local partners and the Government of Myanmar, will also be critical,” added Mr. Almgren.

“We are grateful to the donors and member states for their continued engagement and support over the years” said Mr. Almgren, noting that generous financial support has allowed the response to adapt to an often unpredictable situation on the ground, not least due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, US$185 million was mobilized through the HRP, representing 67 per cent of total funding requirements, including the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings. This has made a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in conflict-affected areas. Close to one quarter of a million people in humanitarian settings were able to access essential healthcare services. Some 930,000 people received food assistance and 200,000 were reached with specialized protection services. Humanitarian organizations also provided nutrition support to more than 83,000 children and women, and shelter and essential household items for close to 240,000, as well as enabling access to safe drinking water for around 390,000 people and providing critical educational assistance for more than 75,000 boys and girls.

Despite these and other efforts, very significant humanitarian challenges remain to be addressed in 2021. “We need to build on what we have learned in 2020 and work closely with the authorities and local partners to further extend our reach this year. A key part of this is ensuring safe and predictable access to those in greatest need of our help,” said Mr. Almgren.

The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar can be downloaded here.

The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Myanmar can be downloaded here.

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Situation Report
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Afghanistan: Snapshot of Population Movements - January to December 2020 (As of 23 Jan 2021)

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In 2020, displacement due to ongoing conflict and natural disasters is continuing to drive humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. Almost 380,000 people have left their homes this year due to fighting. Many of these people remain displaced across the country, as conflict and poverty prevent them from returning to their areas of origin.

In addition to this, close to 868,000 people have returned from neighbouring countries to Afghanistan so far this year including 860,000 from Iran, and 7,900 from Pakistan.

Some 6,000 people has also been deported from Turkey in 2020, while a small number also returned from Europe.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Myanmar — Emergency Response
Myanmar Humanitarian Update

Myanmar Humanitarian Update (27 January 2021)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Clashes between ethnic armed organizations caused the displacement of about 3,900 people in Kyaukme and Namtu townships in northern Shan. Just over 1,000 people remain displaced in Kyaukme Township; around 2,800 people returned to their places of origin within days.

  • One civilian was killed and nine others, including five children, were reportedly injured after an unexploded ordnance detonated in Minbya Township in Rakhine State on 10 January.

  • Clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Karen National Union in south-eastern Myanmar have reportedly displaced about 4,000 people in Kayin State and Bago Region since early December; there are unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties.

  • Over 4,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in protracted camps in Kachin and northern Shan are planning to return to their villages of origin by March 2021, according to civil society organizations.

  • In Rakhine, returns of displaced persons to their places of origin remain sporadic despite the lull in hostilities.

  • The humanitarian and COVID-19 response continues in camps, displacement sites1 and villages in conflict-affected areas.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Indonesia — Emergency Response
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Indonesia: Situation Update on the Response to COVID-19 (as of Ja

As of 18 January, the Indonesian Government has announced 917,015 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all 34 provinces in Indonesia, with 144,798 active cases, 26,282 deaths, and 745,935 people that have recovered from the illness. The government has also reported 77,579 suspected cases.

The number of confirmed daily positive cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia reached a new high during four consecutive days on 13-16 January since the first positive coronavirus case was announced by the Government in early March 2020. Total daily numbers were 11,278 confirmed cases on 13 January, 11,557 cases on 14 January, 12,818 cases on 15 January, and 14,224 cases on 16 January.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has declared the COVID-19 Vaccine by Sinovac as halal. The declaration was stipulated in a fatwa that was issued on 8 January. On 11 January, the Food and Drug Administration (BPOM) issued the emergency use authorization for the vaccine. Following these two decisions, the COVID-19 vaccination program in Indonesia began on 13 January, with the President of the Republic of Indonesia being first to be vaccinated.

To control the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19, the Government has imposed restrictions on community activities from January 11 to 25. The restrictions are carried out for areas in Java and Bali that meet predetermined parameters, namely rates of deaths, recovered cases, active cases and hospitals occupancy. The regions are determined by the governors in seven provinces:

  1. DKI Jakarta: 6 Administrative District / Cities, namely the Cities of Central Jakarta, West Jakarta, North Jakarta, South Jakarta, East Jakarta, and Thousand Islands District, through Governor Regulation No. 3 of 2021 and Governor Decree No. 19 of 2021.

  2. Banten: 3 district and cities, namely Cities of Tangerang and South Tangerang, and Tangerang District, through Governor Instruction No. 1 of 2021.

  3. West Java: 20 districts and cities, namely the districts of Sukabumi, Sumedang, Cirebon, Garut, Karawang, Kuningan, Ciamis, Bandung, West Bandung, Majalengka, Bekasi, Subang, Bogor, and the Cities of Depok, Tasikmalaya, Banjar, Bandung, Bogor , Bekasi, and Cimahi, through Governor Decree No 443 / Kep.10, 443 / Kep.11 and SE-72 of 2021.

  4. Central Java: 23 districts and cities, namely Cities of Semarang City, Salatiga, Surakarta, and Magelang, as well as Districts of Semarang, Kendal, Demak, Grobogan, Sukoharjo, Boyolali, Karanganyar, Sragen, Klaten, Wonogiri, Banyumas, Purbalingga, Cilacap, Banjarnegara, Kebumen, Kudus, Pati, Rembang, and Brebes, through Governor Circular No. 443.5 / 0000429 Year 2021.

  5. DI Yogyakarta: 5 districts and cities namely Yogyakarta City, Kab. Bantul, Kab. Gunung Kidul, Kab. Sleman, and Kab. Kulon Progo Governor Instruction No 1 / INSTR / 2021 Year 2021.

  6. East Java: 11 districts and cities, namely the Cities of Surabaya, Malang, Batu, and Madiun as well as Districts of Sidoarjo, Gresik, Malang, Madiun, Lamongan, Ngawi, and Blitar, through the Governor's Decree No. 188/7 / KPTS / 013/2021 of 2021.

  7. Bali: 5 districts and city, namely Denpasar City, and Districts of Badung, Gianyar, Klungkung, and Tabanan, through Governor Circular Letter No 01/2021.

The activities that are regulated include: 1) 75% work from home for offices; 2) fully online teaching and learning; 3) the essential sector operates at 100%; 4) shopping centers and malls operating until 19.00; 5) restaurants with a capacity of 25%, or take home; 6) Construction can operate 100%; 7) worship with a capacity of 50%; 8) public facilities are closed, social and cultural activities are stopped; 9) public transportation services with adjustable capacity and operating hours.

The Government has extended the temporary closure of the entry of foreign nationals to Indonesia until 25 January. The extension is stipulated in the Circular of the National Task Force for Handling COVID-19 Number 2 of 2021 concerning the International Travel Health Protocol during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

With the occurrences of natural disasters in various part of the country, the Head of the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) who also serves as the Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, highlighted the importance of stringent health protocols for people affected by disasters and those living in displacement sites. Assistance provided to the survivors of the recently-hit earthquake in West Sulawesi includes rapid antigen services for testing and tracing the transmission of COVID-19 in IDP sites.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Analysis
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Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination in Emergencies: Towards a Predictable Model

The Regional Consultative Group (RCG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination (CMCoord) for Asia and the Pacific is a key forum for supporting and elevating coordination, building relationships, and sharing learning to enhance and strengthen emergency response. When the RCG was formed in 2014, it was tasked with improving awareness and enhancing the predictability of CMCoord mechanisms, and their respective functions, during largescale disaster response.

As a result, the RCG initiated the development of the first version of Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination in Emergencies: Towards a Predictable Model, which focused on explaining the legislation, coordination mechanisms, approach to and leadership of disaster management in the five most disaster-prone countries in Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. The publication was launched in 2017, and soon became a key reference for the CMCoord community.

During the 4th RCG session, the publication was discussed and a revision was deemed necessary to reflect global, regional and national changes. The global context, now more than ever, demands effective and efficient provision of aid and relief to vulnerable communities, strong motivation and capability of regional organizations in disaster relief, and continuous development of holistic national disaster management systems and capacity. Coordination is a cross-cutting theme essential to achieving an effective response, and the importance of humanitarian CMCoord is growing as we enter an era of increasing complexity on all fronts and at all levels.

This revised publication was produced through collaboration between the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster response, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the Australian Civil-Military Centre and Humanitarian Advisory Group. Expert practitioners and researchers contributed their time to ensure the information is accurate and accessible. Like the initial version, the publication will be regularly updated to reflect operational environments accurately.

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Situation Report
Afghanistan — Trends
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Afghanistan: COVID-19 Strategic Situation Report

Country-level Coordination: The revised Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2018-2021 was published on 9 January. The HRP identifies 18.4 million people – nearly half the population – are in humanitarian need in 2021, as a result of COVID-19, ongoing conflict, and natural disasters. Approximately six times the number of people are in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021 compared to four years ago when the multi-year HRP was first developed.

The health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen the number of people in need almost double in the past year alone. Afghanistan now has the second highest number of people in emergency food insecurity in the world (5.5 million), while nearly one in two children under-five will face acute malnutrition in 2021.

MOPH Figures: As of 21 January, MoPH data shows that 54,483 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are confirmed to have had COVID-19. Some 46,887 people have recovered, and 2,370 people have died – at least 87 of whom are healthcare workers. Only 234,453 people out of a population of 40.4 million have been tested. Afghanistan now has a test-positivity-rate – positive tests as a percentage of total tests – of 23 per cent, suggesting overall under-testing of potential cases. The majority of recorded deaths were men between the ages of 50 and 79. Men account for almost 68 per cent of the total COVID-19 confirmed cases in the MoPH data, although this may be the result of overrepresentation of men in testing. Due to limited public health resources and testing capacity, lack of people coming forward for testing, as well as the absence of a national death register, confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19 are likely to be under-reported overall in Afghanistan. Stigma is considered a major factor in people choosing not to get tests and risk communications work is critical to turning this around. WHO warns that widespread complacency and failure to follow public health advice is creating grave risks in the community with people generally not observing physical distancing or mask wearing protocols.

Second Wave: In November 2020, MoPH confirmed that Afghanistan was in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following months of consistently lower confirmed COVID-19 cases, MoPH tracking data has seen an uptick in cases, with 80 new COVID-19 cases recorded in the last 24 hours, although numbers now appear to be slowing. WHO Afghanistan remains concerned about mutations of the virus. WHO has sent recent COVID-19 samples for genomic sequencing to track for variants and confirm if the mutation is currently present in Afghanistan. WHO suspects this to be the case and reiterates that vigilance should be maintained.

The rollout of the annual influenza vaccination across Afghanistan this winter is more important than ever to help the health system manage COVID-19 cases. Increasing influenza vaccine coverage can reduce the strain on the health care system and free-up limited health resources to focus on treating more severe cases of COVID-19. Public health experts strongly urge the public to follow health advice on physical distancing, mask wearing, good hygiene, hand washing and other proven strategies that mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Health Services: Hospitals and clinics continue to report challenges maintaining or expanding their facilities’ capacity to treat patients with COVID-19, as well as maintaining essential health services, especially in areas of active conflict. WHO stresses the need to balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, with simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain essential health service delivery, mitigating against the risk of system collapse.

Almost eight per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff. Health facilities across the country continue to report shortfalls in PPE, medical supplies and equipment, further challenging their capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. There is an urgent need to ensure a continued distribution of medical and protective equipment to all corners of the country. While 15 laboratories are now operating in Afghanistan, the capacity of these facilities remains limited and stocks of supplies have periodically run out. National capacity for COVID-19 testing has topped 5,800 a day however these laboratories are not being fully utilised. Humanitarian partners urge the Government to ensure laboratories are appropriately equipped, staff receive timely remuneration and that procured supplies go to under-resourced health centres in a transparent manner so that life-saving support can be delivered to those most in need.

Vaccination: The Government of Afghanistan and the UN have initiated a number of steps to prepare for the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine across the country, including the development of a National Vaccine Deployment Plan (NVDP). A technical working group comprised of government and UN organisations and chaired by the Ministry of Public Health have developed plans for vaccine operations, cold chain management, communication, surveillance, training and monitoring and evaluation/data and will complement the existing Vice Presidential COVID-19 Task Force. As a preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, UNICEF will be responsible for vaccine/injection supply procurement, communication and social mobilisation support, and cold chain procurement. WHO’s responsibility, on the other hand, will include: developing training materials and tools; micro-planning; training of health workers; vaccine operation and; monitoring and evaluation. Other UN and NGO organisations will also be involved in preparation and roll out of the vaccine through both existing and new programming. Joint efforts are being coordinated through a recently established technical team. The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available in Afghanistan in 2021 through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) facility. While GAVI had provided funding through the COVAX facility to cover vaccine costs for up to 20 per cent of the population, the World Bank and Asia Development Bank have recently committed to provide funds to cover an additional 40 per cent of the population.

Socio-economic impacts: The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 are translating into a dramatic deterioration in food insecurity with levels, now similar to those seen during the 2018 drought. An estimated 16.9 million people are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity through until March. The current climate outlook is also worrying with predictions of reduced precipitation and higher temperatures potentially affecting farmers and pastoralists over the next few months. Food prices are already at elevated levels due to COVID-19. According to WFP’s market monitoring, the average wheat flour price (low price and high price) increased by 13 per cent between 14 March and 20 January, while the cost of pulses, sugar, cooking oil and rice (low quality) increased by 23 per cent, 21 per cent, 46 per cent, and 18 per cent, respectively, over the same period. This price increase is accompanied by declining purchasing power of casual labourers and pastoralists – which have deteriorated by 19 per cent and 18 per cent respectively (compared to 14 March). These factors, combined with COVID-19 related interruptions to informal employment and decreased remittances, are driving people into crippling debt. Data from the 2020 Whole of Afghanistan Assessment shows that the primary reason for taking on this debt was to pay for food (53 per cent).

Winterisation support: Afghanistan is enduring a grim winter as people struggle to keep themselves warm amid soaring poverty driven by the economic shock of COVID-19. Given this situation, there is an urgent need for additional funding for winterisation support from both the Government and donors to help struggling households survive the harsh weather ahead. The ICCT’s $137m winterisation plan aims to reach 2.5m people over the winter months with a range of lifesaving support including cash and in-kind heating assistance for households and classrooms, warm clothes, seasonal food support, nutrition treatment, and health services for winter sickness. To date, about half of the funds needed have been committed by donors and the Government ($71.7m), leaving a gap of $65.8m. (DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT)

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Analysis
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Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition

UN agencies warn economic impact of COVID-19 and worsening inequalities will fuel malnutrition for billions in Asia and the Pacific

Child and maternal diets particularly vulnerable

20/01/2021, Bangkok, Thailand – The economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s most populous region is threatening to further undermine efforts to improve diets and nutrition of nearly two billion people in Asia and the Pacific who were already unable to afford healthy diets prior to the pandemic, says a new report published today by four specialized agencies of the United Nations.

The report, Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition found that 1.9 billion people were unable to afford a healthy diet in this region, even before the COVID-19 outbreak and the damage it has since caused to economies and individual livelihoods. The report was published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

Due to higher prices for fruits, vegetables and dairy products, it has become nearly impossible for poor people in Asia and the Pacific to achieve healthy diets, the affordability of which is critical to ensure food security and nutrition for all – and for mothers and children in particular.

Food prices and available incomes govern household decisions on food and dietary intake. But the outbreak of COVID-19 and a lack of decent work opportunities in many parts of the region, alongside significant uncertainty of food systems and markets, has led to a worsening of inequality, as poorer families with dwindling incomes further alter their diets to choose cheaper, less nutritious foods.

Making nutritious foods affordable and accessible

More than 350 million people in the Asia and the Pacific were undernourished in 2019, or roughly half of the global total. Across the region, an estimated 74.5 million children under 5 years of age were stunted (too short for their age) and 31.5 million suffered from wasting (too thin for height). The majority of these children live in Southern Asia with nearly 56 million stunted and more than 25 million wasted. At the same time, overweight and obesity has increased rapidly, especially in South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, with an estimated 14.5 million children under 5, being overweight or obese.

Poor diets and inadequate nutritional intake is an ongoing problem. The cost of a healthy diet is significantly higher than that of a diet that provides sufficient calories but lacks in nutritional value, showing significant gaps in the food system to deliver nutritious options to all at an affordable price. These costs are even greater for women and children, given their added nutritional needs.

The report calls for a transformation of food systems in Asia and the Pacific, with an aim to increase the affordability of, and families’ access to, nutritious, safe, and sustainable diets. Nutritious and healthy diets need to be accessible to everyone, everywhere. To ensure that happens, the report recommends integrated approaches and policies are needed. These steps are vital to overcome unaffordability issues, and also to ensure healthy maternal and child diets.

Improving maternal and child diets requires strengthening vital systems

Nutrition is vitally important throughout a person’s life. The impact of a poor diet is most severe in the first 1000 days, from pregnancy to when a child reaches the age of 2. Young children, especially when they start eating their “first foods” at 6 months, have high nutritional requirements to grow well and every bite counts.

Mainstreaming nutrition-focused behaviour change campaigns throughout these systems should lead to greater knowledge uptake and sustainability of behaviours helping people to achieve healthy diets.

Education on what constitutes a healthy diet and how to create hygienic environments at home, in schools and in the community, together with investment in girl’s education and infrastructure that underlies good water, sanitation and hygiene practices, are critical.

Therefore, providing a nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diet for all requires coordinating with partners in the Food, Water and Sanitation, Health, Social Protection and Education systems, to collectively create an enabling environment.

Greater attention is also needed to operationalize national policies and plans to improve the delivery of health services for maternal and child diets and good nutrition outcomes. Services to improve the diets of mothers and young children should be prioritized as part of the essential package of health services needed to address undernutrition, overweight and obesity and to achieve universal health coverage.

In the meantime, social protection efforts can protect and stabilize incomes and improve access to healthy diets during disasters and crises. At least nine governments in Asia and Pacific have established a targeted mother and child COVID-19 component in their social protection systems. However, more data collection and analysis are needed to document the effectiveness of social protection in improving maternal and child diets in the region.

Bringing everyone to the table

Food systems play a critical role in achieving food and nutrition security for all. A sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food system is essential to produce diverse and nutritious foods for healthy diets. Improved efficiency and productivity of value chains can reduce the costs of essential foods to make them more affordable.

These actions are needed now more than ever because the face of malnutrition is changing in Asia and the Pacific, with highly processed and inexpensive foods readily available throughout the region. These foods are often packed with sugar and unhealthy fats and lack the vitamins and minerals required for growth and development. Consumption of these foods increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Governments need to invest in nutrition and food safety in fresh and street food markets to promote healthy diets. Regulation of sales and marketing of food for consumers, especially children, is important to curb overweight, obesity and related diseases and illness.

The report also calls for action within the private sector, as it has an important role to play in supporting the transformation of the food system and its value chains for achieving healthy diets.

Leveraging these systems, in a coordinated fashion that expands the opportunities to address barriers to accessing and consuming healthy diets, will help countries and the people of Asia and the Pacific recover faster from the economic impact of COVID-19, and be better prepared for future crises.

The reportAsia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition’ is jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

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Myanmar: Snapshot of temporary displacement in northern Shan

Temporary Displacement Overview - northern Shan

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Afghanistan — Emergency Response
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Afghanistan: Weekly Humanitarian Update (11 – 17 January 2021)

South: Fighting continued in most provinces

Fighting between Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and a non-state armed group (NSAG) continued in Hilmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.

In Uruzgan province, airstrikes and clashes between ANSF and an NSAG intensified in Gizab district. The conflict in Gizab district administrative centre resulted in the relocation of a humanitarian distribution site for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Khalaj village who had been displaced by conflict in Naik Bazar. IDPs are experiencing difficulties in accessing the distribution site as culverts have been destroyed between the district administrative centre and Khalaj village.

In Hilmand province, fighting between the ANSF and an NSAG continued in Nad-e-Ali and Nawa-e-Barakzaiy districts. Fighting was also reported in Shamul Zayi district, Zabul province. In Kandahar province, the security situation remained tense mainly in Zheray, Panjwayi and Arghandab districts. Ongoing clashes with airstrikes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued to impact the safety and movements of civilians across Kandahar province.

During the reporting period, interagency assessment teams identified 328 people displaced by conflict to receive immediate humanitarian assistance in Kandahar province. Following a needs assessment, 1,303 people affected by conflict will be reached with humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Hilmand and Kandahar provinces. In addition, 3,257 people affected by conflict received humanitarian assistance in Kandahar, Hilmand and Uruzgan provinces during the reporting period.

North-east: 3,100 people displaced by fighting

Fighting between ANSF and an NSAG continued in the north-east mainly in Kunduz and Baghlan provinces. On 6 January, 3,100 people were displaced from remote villages to Pul-e-Khumri district of Baghlan province and from insecure areas of Charkhab and Qabri Mirza Naseri to Kunduz city, Kunduz province due to ongoing armed clashes. Also, an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties were reported across the north-east due to ongoing fighting. According to initial reports, several civilians were reportedly abducted along the Kunduz and Ali Abad roads and at illegal checkpoints in the Chenzai area along the road connecting Taloqan to Khan Abad districts.

Humanitarian assistance reached approximately 8,050 people affected by the conflict in Kunduz province. Assessment teams identified 147 people displaced by conflict in Kunduz province to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days.

East: Nearly 2,000 people reportedly newly displaced and 12,712 people received humanitarian assistance

Clashes between ANSF and an NSAG continued in the east mainly in Nangarhar province. The ongoing fighting in Khogyani, Sherzad, Hesarak districts resulted in the displacement of nearly 2,000 people to Surkh Rod district in Nangarhar province. The information has been shared with interagency assessment teams who will assess and respond to the needs of displaced people.

Interagency assessment teams identified 1,491 people to receive immediate humanitarian assistance. A total of 12,712 people received humanitarian assistance — among them are 1,141 newly displaced people, 1,750 vulnerable people in the host community and 9,821 people who received seasonal support and food aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 9,671 returnees, IDPs, and people from host communities were reached with emergency outpatient health services; and 8,079 children were vaccinated to protect them against polio and measles. This week, six mobile health teams provided nutrition support to people affected by conflict and natural disasters in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Among 1,122 children under five screened, 46 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 95 children suffered from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). The severe cases were admitted to the therapeutic feeding centres for treatment.

West: 1,073 people assessed to be in need of humanitarian aid

The security situation in the west remained unstable with reports of fighting and military operations in Hirat, Farah and Ghor provinces. During the reporting period, 1,073 people displaced by conflict were assessed by interagency assessment teams and will receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Farah and Hirat provinces. Needs assessments of 830 families (approximately 5,810 people) affected by conflict continued in Badghis, Ghor, Hirat and Farah provinces.

Centre: 9,296 people received cash assistance for winter

The security situation remained unstable with continued reports of fighting and IED attacks in Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Khost and Paktya provinces. On 11 January, a civilian was reportedly killed and three others were wounded by a roadside IED in Ghazni city, Ghazni province. On 13 January, a civilian was reportedly wounded by a roadside IED in Matun district of Khost province. According to initial reports, 4,942 people were reportedly displaced by conflict in Logar province with needs assessments ongoing to verify this information.

This week, 1,960 people displaced by conflict received humanitarian assistance in Kabul, Paktya, Logar and Khost provinces. Also, 9,296 people received cash assistance for winter in Bamyan, Daykundi and Maidan Wardak provinces. In addition, 7,742 people were recommended to receive immediate winter assistance in Ghazni and Kabul provinces in the coming days. Needs assessments continued for 15,400 vulnerable people in need of winter assistance in Ghazni, Kabul and Kapisa provinces.

North: 1,092 people recommended to receive humanitarian assistance

Armed clashes between ANSF and an NSAG intensified in Balkh, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan and Samangan provinces. The ongoing fighting and insecurity continued to hamper the movements of civilians and humanitarian activities along roads connecting provincial capital to district centres across the north.

­Interagency assessment teams identified 1,092 people affected by conflict to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Faryab, Jawzjan and Sar-e-Pul provinces. Also, 462 people affected by conflict received cash assistance and hygiene supplies in Mazar-e-Sharif city of Balkh province.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weekly Humanitarian Snapshot

ROAP Snapshot 210119
12 - 18 JANUARY 2021

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INDONESIA

An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale (10kmdepth) struck in West Sulawesi Province on 15 January 2021. As of 18 January, 84 people were confirmed killed, 932 people injured, and about 40,000 people are directly affected and displaced in Mamuju and Majene Districts. Heavy damages have been reported by both districts, including the Governor’s office, three hospitals and health facilities, eight mosques, two hotels, a bridge, and over 1,150 houses sustained damages. Initial reports estimate 59 schools and 40 Islamic schools were also damaged. The Provincial Government has declared the emergency response status for 14 days until 28 January

Floods in South Kalimantan began on 12 January and have become more widespread. As of 17 January, 15 people died, 27,000 houses are inundated, and 112,000 people have been displaced. The Provincial Government has declared an emergency response status on 14 January. The National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) provided emergency funds worth IDR 3.5 billion (about $250,000). The Indonesian National Armed Forces mobilized 32 tons of relief assistance as well as 216 medical officers and volunteers. The Indonesian Red Cross has provided 15,000 liters of clean water, 620 blankets, 160 mattresses, 272 Hygiene kits, over 43,000 ready-to-eat meals, and medical assistance to over 500 people.¹

MYANMAR

One civilian was killed and nine others, including five children, were reportedly injured after an unexploded ordnance detonated in Sa Pa Htar Village in Minbya Township in Rakhine State on 10 January. On 12 January, another civilian was reportedly injured by a landmine explosion in Paletwa Township in Chin State. In nine months in 2020, at least 49 children were killed and 134 maimed as a direct result of the conflict in Myanmar. This is more than the total casualties in 2019 or 2018, according to UNICEF.²

PHILIPPINES

Up to 10,000 people were displaced by flooding in several towns of Sulu Province following heavy rains on 17 and 18 January. Rescue teams from the coast guard and fire services evacuated people from low-lying affected areas and a number of coastal villages were hit by heavy rains, strong winds, and big waves. Local authorities have distributed relief packages to the displaced who are staying in evacuation sites and with relatives.

BANGLADESH

A fire broke out in Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar shortly after midnight on 14 January, destroying about 550 shelters and 150 shops. A community centre is also said to have been destroyed. About 3,500 Rohingya refugees lost their homes and belongings in the fire. No lives were lost, and the fire was brought under control in a few hours by firefighters, volunteers, and refugees. The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing emergency food assistance and humanitarian partners from the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), Bangladesh Red Crescent, and NGOs are providing assistance to affected families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights

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

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

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

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

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2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview

2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview

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

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

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

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2020 Asia Pacific Humanitarian Response Overview (page 2)

2020 ASIA PACIFIC HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE OVERVIEW OCHA Page 2

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

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

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

Philippines: Responding to a Triple Crisis

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

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

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

They are not alone in their struggle.

Triple crisis

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

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

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

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

The private sector leads the response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private sector rescue operations

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

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

Impact of and response to the triple threat and field visits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:

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

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

Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, said:

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

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

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

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

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

Notes to editors

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Download full report)

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

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Interactive

Humanitarian Data Portal for COVID-19 in Asia Pacific

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

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

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

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

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SG report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

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

Pakistan: Fighting COVID-19 and other health emergencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Media

A new approach to saving lives: CERF in Bangladesh

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

Read more here.

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Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

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Background
Report

Highlights from the Archive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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