The Central, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States is vulnerable to natural, technological and political hazards. These have the potential to cause devastation and suffering, especially affecting children and women who are often the most vulnerable during emergencies. Much of the region, including Central Asia, South Caucasus and South-Eastern Europe, lies in a highly seismic geographic region. Seismic activity could cause large scale destruction and loss of life, particularly in urban areas. In Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, earthquake tremors could displace uranium wastes stored underground, with serious consequences for public health.
Lately, and perhaps as a consequence of climate change, many countries are experiencing extreme weather events such as severe heat waves which cause forest fires and destroy property and food crops. Floods, land- and mudslides and avalanches are also common and have critical consequences.
At times, existing, complex political and security vulnerabilities have led to sporadic violence. Following the overthrow of the Kyrgyzstan government in 2010, 300,000 people were internally displaced and 75,000 refugees sought shelter in Uzbekistan. Georgia, while on its way to recovery, still remains tense, and security incidents in some of the republics in the North Caucasus appear to be on the rise. The situation of the separatist republic of Transnisdria in Moldova still remains unresolved and progress is still slow toward resolving the issue of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The global economic crisis has exacerbated poverty in the region. The most severely affected are the poorest and most marginalised, particularly the many thousands of displaced persons. Children of these communities do not often have access to adequate education, health care, support or protection. Psychosocial problems are widespread.
UNICEF in action
In line with UNICEF’s core commitments for children in emergencies, the UNICEF regional office is actively supporting the efforts of the country offices and their partners in preparing for and responding to disasters in the region. These efforts include actively monitoring and analyzing political and security developments, and developing and updating response plans accordingly. To maintain an adequate level of response readiness, capacity-building activities are regularly designed and implemented. These include training workshops on topics such as humanitarian principles, UNICEF’s Core Commitment for Children and the inter-agency Cluster Approach system, and emergency simulation exercises which test preparedness and identify strengths and weaknesses. Collaboration with regional partners such as UNHCR, OCHA, WHO and WFP is also ensured through regular inter-agency consultations and joint field missions.
Additionally, the regional office is coordinating the implementation of a sub-regional DRR programme in seven countries in South Caucasus and Central Asia, the first of its kind to be implemented in the region. This project supports actions that enable national institutions and selected communities to better prepare for, mitigate and respond to disasters, thereby building a safer and more protective environment for children in the target countries. This is a multi-million dollar project primarily funded by EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office.