A girl carries a baby in a camp for people displaced by flooding in Sindh Province, Pakistan. The region, one of the world’s most populous, suffers from natural disasters, conflict and internal tensions fuelled by economic disparities.
Children and Women in Crisis
South Asia, where UNICEF has offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, is one of the most populous and emergency-prone regions in the world. It is marked by a lack of coping and adaptive capacities to natural hazards such as earthquakes, seasonal floods and cold spells. It also suffers from localized conflicts and internal tensions fuelled in part by social-economic disparities and equity issues.
Three countries in the region are among the top 20 high-risk countries for natural hazards, according to the 2011 World Risk Report.1 In 2011, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka were all severely affected by monsoon floods. An exceptionally heavy monsoon hit the southern Pakistan province of Sindh between mid-August and mid-September. Of the 5.4 million people affected, half were children.2 UNICEF appealed for US$50.3 million to support its humanitarian response for the health, nutrition, education and protection of flood-affected children and women in Sindh.3 Afghanistan was affected by a severe drought that required the humanitarian community to launch a revised consolidated appeal on 1 October4 enabling humanitarian agencies to prevent the situation from further deteriorating for 2.6 million severely-affected persons. On 18 September, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck Bhutan, Northeastern India and Western Nepal. The earthquake’s impact was particularly severe in Bhutan, where it caused structural damage to more than 8,000 houses, 110 schools and 36 health centres throughout the country.5
Ongoing internal conflicts within countries in the region have also aggravated the humanitarian context for women and children. The Afghanistan conflict, now in its tenth year, shows no sign of abating, and internal displacement, civilian casualties and lack of access to essential health services all continue to rise in 2011. According to several reports, humanitarian space dwindled while local communities reportedly were forced to take sides in the conflict.6 In Pakistan, the fight against insurgents in the country’s tribal belt has continued to displace more than 800,000 people.7 The humanitarian funding requirements in 2012 for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are described in separate chapters; however, technical support from the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia will be required in 2012 for emergency preparedness and response across eight countries in South Asia.
Meeting Urgent Needs in 2012
- In 2012, UNICEF will augment the disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness capacity of UNICEF country offices and partners in the South Asia region, as well as strengthen regional support to UNICEF country offices in emergency response and UNICEF-led cluster areas/areas of responsibility (i.e., WASH, nutrition, education and child protection).8
- UNICEF will also enhance regional support for knowledge management and partnership in humanitarian action.
- Regional support will cover all eight countries in South Asia. The UNICEF regional office will also channel specific emergency preparedness and response contributions received to countries (e.g., Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal) that do not have a stand-alone appeal in this document. In the case of a small-to-medium scale emergency in these countries, national authorities might not prioritize inter-agency appeals as key fundraising tools, yet international support in certain specific sectors would be welcomed. This component of the Humanitarian Action for Children will provide such a vehicle for funding and technical assistance.
Humanitarian Funding at Work: Highlights from 2011
In 2011 the UNICEF Regional Emergency Team provided support to all eight countries in the region for emergency-preparedness capacity building through inter-agency missions. It also allowed for direct ‘surge’ support in the acute emergency-response phase for the Pakistan Sindh flood and cluster coordination support (e.g., WASH cluster support for UNICEF and partners’ response to the Afghanistan drought). In addition, it provided support for the WASH, nutrition and child protection working group for the Pakistan Sindh flood and disaster-risk reduction mainstreaming in UNICEF country programmes (e.g., Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Nepal). This regional support represented 35 missions totaling 326 persons/days.
The UNICEF Regional Emergency Team also technically reviewed and cleared the UNICEF humanitarian plans and appeals from emergency-affected countries.
Funding Requirements for 2012
In order to carry out its planned regional emergency support actions in 2012, the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia is requesting US$3,990,000 from donors. This includes US$3 million for preparedness and response activities in emergency-prone countries in the region that are not included in a separate chapter in the Humanitarian Action for Children and which are likely not to benefit from inter-agency flash appeals for small-to-medium size emergencies. The funding is critical to continue to provide technical assistance for emergency preparedness, disaster risk reduction, and cluster support costs for WASH, nutrition, education and child protection.
Adequate funding will enable the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia to deliver on its full range of regional accountabilities under UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action.
1 United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, ‘World Risk Report 2011’, Alliance Development Works, Berlin, 2011, p. 64. The South Asia countries include: Afghanistan (15), Bangladesh (6), and Bhutan (18).
2 United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘UNICEF Pakistan Update: 2011 Floods – Needs and Response’, UNICEF Pakistan, Islamabad, 2 November 2011, p. 1.
3 Ibid., p.3.
4 The 2011 Consolidated Appeal for Afghanistan, Emergency Revision in Response to Drought is an additional funding request in the amount of US$142 million to enable humanitarian agencies to respond to this drought.
5 United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, ‘Quarterly Update: 3rd Quarter 2011’, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, New York, 14 October 2011, p. 3.
6 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, ‘Afghanistan: Armed conflict forces increasing numbers of Afghans to flee their homes – A profile of the internal displacement situation’, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Geneva, 11 April 2011, p. 80.
7 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘UNHCR Global Appeal 2011 Update: Pakistan’, UNHCR, Geneva, 1 December 2010, p. 186.
8 For cost-saving reasons, the cluster technical support in WASH, education and child protection will be based in the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, but will be available to South Asian countries.