Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report

Highlights

  • Funding by UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is providing a platform for coordinating localized humanitarian aid in the Philippines.
  • 2021 Regional Focus Model identifies hazard-prone countries combining high vulnerability & low response capacity. Top 5: Afghanistan Myanmar Pakistan Bangladesh Papua New Guinea
  • Violence in Myanmar: "The perpetrators must be held to account," says UN Resident Coordinator
  • Philippines and Cambodia welcome the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX
  • Pacific governments call for urgent action on disaster displacement in light of the climate crisis
COVAX Cambodia
On 2 March, 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India (SII) arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport, their first stop before being given to priority groups, including those at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus and those who are most vulnerable to developing severe illness from COVID-19. (Photo: UNICEF Cambodia/2021/Antoine Raab)

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Key Figures

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

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Contacts

Pierre Peron

Regional Public Information Officer, OCHA ROAP

Asia Pacific Regional Humanitarian Update

Situation Report
Emergency Response
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Bangladesh: The devastation left by a massive fire that broke out in the main Kutupalong section of the Rohingya Refugee Camps on 22 March 2021. (Photo: IOM)

Asia Pacific Regional Weekly Humanitarian Update 16-22 March 2021

BANGLADESH

A massive fire broke out in the main Kutupalong section of the Rohingya Refugee Camps on 22 March 2021 around 15:00 and rapidly spread through four camps (8e, 8w, 9 and 10), with early assessments indicating that at least 15 people have lost their lives, over 560 injured, and more than 45,000 people displaced with 10,000 shelters damaged/destroyed, with loss of critical infrastructure including nutrition centres, food distribution points and health centres. Displaced people have sought refuge in nearby camps and at various facilities. The response is ongoing to provide emergency food, shelter, water and sanitation, and health care to affected people, and to reunite separated children and families. Source: ISCG, WFP, Media

MYANMAR

Over 2,500 people lost their shelter after a fire destroyed more than 660 houses on 17 March in the Tein Nyo displacement site in Mrauk-U Township in Rakhine State, which hosts around 3,300 people displaced by the conflict between the Myanmar Armed Forces (MAF) and the Arakan Army (AA). At least eight people were reportedly injured, including a child, due to the fire, which was accidentally set by a candle. The affected families are currently sheltering at the nearby monastery, school and a community quarantine center where they received urgent food and cash assistance, basic households materials and support to access water and sanitation services provided by humanitarian partners and the local community. Partners are looking at ways to provide more support, including shelter assistance, to the affected families, who are now displaced more than once in the last two years. At least 99,300 people remain displaced by the conflict between the MAF and the AA in 180 sites in Rakhine and southern areas of Chin states. Source: humanitarian partners

PHILIPPINES

Thousands of residents in several towns of Maguindanao Province remain displaced following skirmishes between the military and an IS-inspired armed group. More than 48,000 people from 11 towns were affected by the clashes which started early morning of 18 March. According to latest Government reports, about 42,000 people are displaced of which 32,500 are in 42 evacuation centers while the rest are hosted by relatives/friends. The Bangsamoro regional government, supported by local authorities, conducted an assessment and noted the need for food, water, hygiene kits, latrines, emergency shelter and sleeping kits. The Mindanao Humanitarian Team is mobilizing relief items to support the local government response. Several of the displacement areas remain inaccessible due to the volatile situation. Source: BARMM MSSD, OCHA

AFGHANISTAN

Over 200,000 people have returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan since the start of the year, which is more than double the rate of return over the same period in 2019 and 2020. Additional waves of cross-border migration and internal displacement remain a risk due to escalating conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic. IOM, together with the Government, are delivering humanitarian assistance to returnees at major border crossings. However, limited funding is restricting the scale of operations. As of 21 March, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021 is 6 per cent funded. Last year saw the largest number on record for returnees, with close to 868,000 undocumented migrants returning from Iran (860,000 people) and Pakistan (7,900 people). Source: IOM

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Situation Report
Myanmar — Media

Myanmar: humanitarian situation remains dire and aid operations disrupted by the coup.

Daily Noon Briefing Highlights – 8 March 2021

Myanmar

The humanitarian situation in the country remains dire and aid operations have been disrupted by the coup.

More than 1 million people identified at the beginning of the year as needing assistance, including more than 350,000 internally displaced people, still need help.

Humanitarian partners across the country are making all efforts to resume life-saving activities, but the operating environment remains difficult.

There are continued disruptions to communication, transportation and supply chains, and shortages of cash for operations due to limitations on banking services. Market prices in some areas are rising as a result.

COVID-19 testing capacities and vaccination planning have also been severely impacted.

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Philippines — Emergency Response
RS34749 COVAX Wide

Philippines welcomes the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX facility

Joint press release by DOH, UNICEF, WHO, GAVI, CEPI

04 March 2021, Manila - Today, more than 480,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in the Philippines from the COVAX Facility, the international partnership established to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. The Philippines is among the first countries in Southeast Asia to receive vaccines from the COVAX Facility. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.

"The long days and nights of waiting are finally over. These vaccines will be of great help to our valiant healthcare workers who have been at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic. So, let us put our trust in science, in vaccines. Together, we will rise as a nation and heal as one,” says Department of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

Officials from the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF Philippines received the vaccine doses at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The Philippine Government will lead the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The COVAX Facility leads an unprecedented effort to provide at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021 to low- and middle-income countries. For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting governments and partners in readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plans, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as stockpiling of half a billion syringes and safety boxes for their disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is enough equipment for healt h workers to start vaccinating priority groups as soon as possible.

The WHO launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator and is led jointly by Gavi, WHO, the CEPI, and UNICEF, which is leading vaccine procurement and delivery operations. WHO is tasked with ensuring fair allocation and prioritization of countries eligible to receive vaccines from the COVAX Facility.

“WHO joins partners and the people of the Philippines in welcoming the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility. These vaccines coming through COVAX will help protect up to 20% of the population in the country during this year, including healthcare workers, other frontline workers and the elderly – groups who are most at risk. The COVID-19 vaccines are proven to protect people from severe disease and death. Used together with public health measures currently in place – wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding large groups, and washing hands frequently – will help mitigate the effects of the pandemic by reducing deaths and severe disease. We all welcome the addition of vaccines to the available tools in the country which, when used to scale, will contribute to gradual return of day-to-day activities and economic revival in the country. The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines is a powerful step in that direction,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines.

UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX facility to countries - the biggest, most sophisticated ground operation in the history of immunization. In the Philippines, apart from supporting COVID-19 vaccine introduction and roll out, UNICEF continues to support the immunization programmes of the government through planning, cold chain and vaccine management, technical know-how and training. Building on over 70 years of experience in providing simple, effective and accurate information to build public knowledge, awareness and confidence in vaccines, UNICEF is working with partners to ensure that local communities are engaged in the overall vaccination process.

“Vaccines are safe and effective. The COVID-19 pandemic has become a child rights crisis which we need to end as fast as possible. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on people, especially on children’s health, rights to education, nutrition, protection and mental health. COVID-19 vaccination should be part of a larger strategy to strengthen health systems for children and families in the Philippines for the long-term,” says UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.

The COVAX Facility aims to procure 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. The vaccines are intended to protect frontline health care and social workers, as well as high risk and vulnerable people. COVAX was set up to address concerns around fairness and making vaccines available to all. To control and end the global pandemic, vaccines must be available to all.

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Myanmar — Media
UN LOGO

Statement by UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, Mr. Ola Almgren

4 March 2021

UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, Ola Almgren - “Yesterday was a tragic day for Myanmar. Dozens of unarmed and peaceful protestors killed and many more injured. This is not acceptable and the perpetrators of violence must be held to account. My sympathies go out to the families and friends of those killed.”

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Visual

Asia and the Pacific: 2021 Regional Focus Model

RFM 2021 - 20023 Page 2b

A key challenge faced by humanitarian agencies is how to ensure that limited available resources are allocated where they are most needed and are efficiently delivered in a principled manner. Decisions to allocate resources must strike a balance between meeting the immediate needs of crisis affected communities and supporting efforts to strengthen resilience and response preparedness to future emergencies.

To support humanitarian partners address some of these challenges, the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) produces the Regional Focus Model (RFM). Similar to previous analyses in 2018 and 2019, the model is based on INFORM (www.inform-index.org), a global risk index that identifies and analyzes where crises requiring international assistance may occur. It can be used to support decisions about disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and response.

The model identifies hazard-prone countries that combine high vulnerability and low capacity to respond, and are therefore more likely to request and accept support from the international community. The model also includes a "Humanitarian" component, reflecting issues more directly related to OCHA's coordination work. This humanitarian component is combined with INFORM to produce a Focus score. The model should be a practical tool to inform and guide disaster managers, by providing an evidence base on which to base discussions and prioritization.

In 2021, the RFM covers analysis of 38 countries in the Asia-Pacific region under ROAP in Bangkok, Thailand and the Office of the Pacific (OP) in Suva, Fiji.

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Myanmar — Emergency Response

Myanmar: Update on Humanitarian Situation in Northern Shan

2 March 2021- Armed clashes continued to be reported in several townships in northern Shan resulting in further internal displacement during the last week of February.

  • In Namtu Township, around 170 people were newly displaced on 21 February due to the clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army and the allied forces of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army, according to partners.

  • In a separate incident in Kunlong Township, local sources indicated that clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Kachin Independence Army led to the temporary displacement of around 100 people.

  • A civilian was also reportedly killed due to an artillery shelling in Muse Township on 24 February.

  • Humanitarian partners complemented the efforts of the local communities and authorities to respond to the immediate needs of people displaced.

  • More than 3,200 people remain displaced across northern Shan due to recent clashes, including some 1,070 displaced since early January.

  • Northern Shan already hosts around 9,800 IDPs in protracted displacement camps established in 2011.

Sources: Humanitarian partners and local sources

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Afghanistan — Feature
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Bibi Gul with her family in fled the conflict in Ghor Province, Afghanistan. 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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Media

IOM Calls for Immediate Rescue as Deaths are Reported on Latest Stranded Rohingya Boat

Geneva, Bangkok – With the latest reports that a vessel with Rohingya refugees is in distress in the Andaman Sea, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) calls on countries in the region to meet their international obligations and ensure that all on board the vessel are immediately rescued and safely disembarked.

The vessel has been at sea for more than 10 days, with loss of life already reported. IOM reiterates calls it has made in the past with other UN agencies and humanitarian partners emphasizing that saving lives must be the top priority. IOM adds that it is imperative that a lasting regional solution to a regional problem be found, building on the solid cooperation and planning previously undertaken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Bali Process to address irregular maritime movements.

  • IOM calls on States in the region to uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind, particularly at this very challenging time globally.

  • As in 2020, when several boats with vulnerable Rohingya women, men and children drifted at sea for months, IOM now urges the Bali Process Co-Chairs to activate the Consultative Mechanism to convene affected countries and facilitate a timely and regional resolution. IOM further calls on States in the region that are not directly impacted to offer support to those States that must proceed with rescue and disembarkation.

  • IOM urges states to continue and expand search and rescue efforts and ensure that landing procedures and reception conditions are safe and humane. Search and rescue must be combined with arrangements for prompt disembarkation to a place of safety.

IOM, along with its UN and other humanitarian partners, reaffirms its support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as to strengthen the broader response capacity to respond to irregular movements.

For more information, please contact Itayi Viriri, Senior Regional Media & Communications Officer,

Spokesperson at IOM Bangkok, Tel: +66 65 939 0934, email: IViriri@iom.int

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Afghanistan — Emergency Response
Afghanistan Feb 2021

Afghanistan Humanitarian Update (15 – 21 February 2021)

South: Fighting continued with civilian casualties and displacement

Fighting between Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and a non-state armed group (NSAG) continued with reported airstrikes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) detonated in Hilmand, Kandahar provinces and some parts of Zabul province. In Kandahar province, fighting was reported in the Arghandab, Panjwayi and Zheray districts.

In Hilmand province, fighting between ANSF and an NSAG continued with airstrikes reported in Nahr-e-Saraj and Nawa-e-Barakzaiy districts. On 16 February, three civilians were reportedly killed when a rocket hit a house in Khosrabad village in Nawa-e-Barakzaiy district. During the reporting period, in another incident three civilians including two women were killed by an IED detonation in Band-e-Barq area in Nahr-e-Saraj district. Ongoing displacement continues to be reported in contested areas to Lashkargah city with needs assessment ongoing by interagency assessment teams.

In Zabul province, fighting continued between ANSF and an NSAG in Mizan, Tarnak Wa Jaldak and Arghandab districts. Ongoing fighting and airstrikes reportedly resulted in the temporary displacement of civilians in Arghandab district. The number of people displaced is being verified by humanitarian organisations.

During the reporting period, 2,494 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were identified by interagency assessment teams to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Kandahar and Hilmand provinces. On 14 February, 2,621 IDPs received food, household items, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and cash-based assistance in Kandahar province.

North-east: 4,508 people received winter aid

Fighting between ANSF and an NSAG intensified with reported targeted killings, assassinations, abductions and illegal checkpoints in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar provinces. Two civilians were reportedly killed and five others were wounded when a mortar hit a residential area in Dasht-e-Qala district in Takhar province. In another incident, two children were wounded by an IED detonation in Argo district, Badakhshan province.

Humanitarian assistance reached approximately 2,492 people affected by conflict in Kunduz province. Assessment teams identified 1,015 people displaced by conflict in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Takhar and Kunduz provinces to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days. Also, 4,508 vulnerable people received winter assistance in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar provinces.

East: 19,957 people received humanitarian assistance

Clashes between ANSF and an NSAG intensified in the east mainly in Khogyani, Sherzad and Hesarak districts, Nangarhar province. According to provincial authorities, approximately 18,000 people from these districts were registered as newly displaced.

Interagency assessment teams identified 3,430 people to receive immediate humanitarian assistance. During the reporting period, 19,957 people received humanitarian assistance — among them are 3,080 newly displaced people, 952 people affected by natural disasters, 1,050 vulnerable people in host communities and 14,875 people who receive 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 504 children were vaccinated to protect them against polio and measles. Seven mobile health teams provided nutrition support to people affected by conflict and natural disasters in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Among 1,264 children under five screened, 42 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 106 children suffered from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). The severe cases were admitted to the therapeutic feeding centres for treatment.

West: Insecurity resulted in civilian casualties

The security situation remained unstable with continued incidents in Badghis, Hirat, Farah and Ghor provinces. As a result of hostilities, roads connecting Hirat to Saghar and Chagcharan were closed to civilian and commercial movements putting the supply of critical commodities such as food and relief items at risk. On 14th February, two civilians were reportedly killed by a roadside IED in Kushk district, and another civilian was killed and four wounded after an unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated in Shindand district of Hirat province. On 16 February, a child was killed and a civilian was wounded by an IED in Muqur B district of Badghis province.

During the reporting period, 959 people displaced by conflict were assessed by interagency assessment teams and reached with food, household items, water, sanitation and hygiene supplies in Badghis and Hirat provinces. Needs assessments of people affected by conflict continued in Ghor and Farah provinces. Approximately 4,598 IDPs were reached with health services from humanitarian partners at informal IDP sites in Badghis and Hirat provinces.

Centre: 8,736 people received winter assistance

The security situation remained unstable in the centre. Fighting and IED detonations were reported in Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Khost, Ghazni, Paktika and Paktya provinces. According to initial reports, 700 people were displaced in Behsud district, Maidan Warak province due to fighting with the information still to be verified.

Interagency assessment teams identified 658 IDPs to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Khost and Paktya provinces. Approximately 8,736 people received winter assistance in Daykundi, Ghazni, Parwan and Logar provinces. In addition, 2,800 people were identified by interagency assessment teams to receive winter assistance in Parwan province.

North: 1,428 people identified to receive humanitarian assistance

­Armed clashes between ANSF and an NSAG continued in Balkh, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Jawzjan and Samangan provinces. Interagency assessment teams identified 1,428 people affected by conflict to receive humanitarian assistance in the coming days in Balkh, Faryab, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul and Jawzjan provinces. A total of 91 people affected by conflict received humanitarian assistance in Faryab province.

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Myanmar — Emergency Response

UN team in Myanmar gravely concerned that the recent events will jeopardize the #COVID19 vaccination effort

24 February 2021 Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General. **Myanmar On Myanmar, we’ve been telling you about the impact that the military takeover has had on the freedoms of assembly and speech, among others. Today, the UN team in Myanmar says it is gravely concerned that the recent events will jeopardize the COVID-19 vaccination effort that is under way. Our colleagues say that Myanmar had developed a robust, meticulous national deployment and vaccination plan. It had already vaccinated 105,000 health workers as of 31 January.

Also on Myanmar, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) team in the country said today that it is alarmed by the continued use of excessive force against children by security forces during ongoing demonstrations. Earlier this week, on 22 February, a five-year-old child was seriously wounded in Kachin State when he was reportedly shot by a member of security forces using a slingshot. As we told you earlier this week, a child was killed by security forces in Mandalay over the weekend. UNICEF is once again calling on security forces to refrain from violence, to exercise maximum restraint and for differences to be resolved through constructive and peaceful means, prioritizing the protection and safety of children and young people.

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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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Pacific islanders are amongst those most at risk of being displaced. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Pacific governments call for urgent action on disaster displacement in light of the climate crisis

Press release by the Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP) and the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement

11 February

Suva/Geneva - Climate change is not a “doomsday proposition” but a living existential threat to humanity, Pacific government officials have warned. The stark warning was made at today’s Pacific Regional Consultation on Internal Displacement, co-organized by the Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP)’s Technical Working Group (TWG) on Human Mobility and the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement. Government representatives from 10 Pacific countries reiterated strongly the need for accelerated and ambitious action to address disaster-induced displacement as part of the global fight against the climate crisis. “Every year, more of our citizens will be forced to leave their homes to escape stronger storms, rising seas, and swelling rivers brought by climate change,” said Honorable Prime Minister of Fiji, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama in a video message. “Climate driven displacement is not a doomsday proposition; it is happening right now. In response we have to change and adapt as quickly as the climate.” The virtual event gathered government officials, UN agencies, civil societies, academia and the private sector together to exchange policy best practices on disaster displacement and review challenges ahead as the Pacific continues to grapple with extreme weather events. The outcomes of the consultation will also inform the High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement, an eight-member group established by the UN Secretary-General to identify concrete recommendations to better prevent, respond and achieve solutions to internal displacement. “For far too long, the idea of internal displacement may seem abstract but the issue is real and here in the Pacific,” stressed H.E. Tregor Albon Ishoda, Ambassador of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to Fiji, recalling the “devastating impacts” of Tropical Cyclone Yasa and Harold in the consultation. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), more than 50,000 people in the Pacific region are at risk of having to flee their homes each year due to extreme weather events. Pacific islanders are amongst those most at risk of being displaced, bearing the brunt of sudden and slow-onset effects of climate change with humanitarian consequences. “The breach of human rights, and scale and severity of humanitarian problem in the region requires more systematic attention be given to internally displaced persons in the Pacific,” urged Dr. Tauisi Taupo, Secretary of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu in his keynote address. Support to internally displaced persons are provided by the National Disaster Management Offices in the Pacific and collaborative efforts of local actors, NGOs and development partners. However, as the climate crisis is escalating at an alarming pace, panelists have stressed that accelerated global actions are needed to ensure the inclusion of internal displacement in national development planning, legal frameworks and guidelines. “Climate change presents more than just disaster risks. It is an existential threat that could displace entire nations,” said Nasser Judeh, Member of the High-Level Panel. “Displacement and disaster risks need to be recognized as a shared development priority.”

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Media

The Philippines: From 27 to 31 January, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator led a high-level CERF mid-term review mission organized by OCHA to Albay and Catanduanes. He was joined by Ambassadors of Canada and Germany, representatives of UNICEF, IOM, WFP, OCHA as well as implementing partners.

In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Goni, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) approved an allocation of $3.1 million (PhP 150 million) for the Philippines to provide life-saving assistance to 55,000 most affected people in Albay and Catanduanes. The funding allocation to UNICEF, IOM and the WFP allowed the three agencies to prioritize water supplies, sanitation services, hygiene, emergency shelter and food to address timecritical needs.

(Download Full Mission Report)

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Myanmar — Feature
HRP cover-001

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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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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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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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 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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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: 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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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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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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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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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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Background
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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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