Disaster Risk Reduction

© UNICEF/Sri Lanka/2011/Rajat Madhok
SRI LANKA: FLoods in the east destroyed many houses and left thousands of people stranded on small islands.

Children and Women in Humanitarian Situations in South Asia

South Asia, where UNICEF has offices in all eight countries (i.e. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) – including in several at subnational level, is one of the most populous and emergency-prone regions in the world. The South Asia region 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.  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.  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 . In 2011 Afghanistan was affected by a severe drought that required the humanitarian community to launch a revised consolidated appeal on 1 October 2011 enabling humanitarian agencies to prevent the situation from further deteriorating for 2.6 million severely-affected persons. On 18 September, 2011an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck Bhutan, North-eastern India and Western Nepal. The earthquake’s impact was particularly severe in Bhutan, where it caused structural damage to over 8,000 houses, 110 schools and 36 health centres over all of its 20 districts. 
On-going internal conflicts 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, lack of access to essential health services and civilian casualties all continued to rise in 2011 and 2012. According to several reports, humanitarian space dwindled while local communities reportedly were forced to take sides in the conflict.  In Pakistan, the fight against insurgents in the country’s tribal belt has continued to displace over 800,000 people.  The humanitarian funding requirements in 2012 for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are described in the Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) report (link: )however, technical support from the UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia is required in 2012 for emergency preparedness and response across eight countries in South Asia.

UNICEF Assistance to Children and Women Affected by Emergencies in South Asia and the Strategic Role of UNICEF Regional Office

Given the stark reality described above, UNICEF must be ready to respond to both ongoing and new emergencies across the countries of South and East Asia and the Pacific.  This is possible through UNICEF’s large field presence in 8 Country Offices across the region.   These Country Offices have primary organizational responsibility for emergency preparedness and response.  Indeed most emergencies are considered medium to large and the response is organized and implemented by the Country Office with support from the Regional Office.  A small number of emergencies are ‘global’ in scale (in South Asia the latest ones are Indian Tsunami in 2004, Pakistan Kashmir Earthquake in 2005, and Pakistan Floods in 2010) and these exceptions require organizational wide mobilization of resources and personnel.

UNICEF’s role in emergencies is to provide urgent life-saving support to all in need in an impartial, neutral way while building sustainable early recovery towards development.  To achieve this, UNICEF Country Offices work closely with national governments, local non-governmental organizations as well as international partners.  UNICEF provides rapid emergency response in areas relevant to its mandate in line with the Core Commitment of Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) including: health, nutrition, child protection, WASH, and education as well as support to the prevention of gender-based violence and logistics and supply, communications and advocacy components of its humanitarian response.  Given UNICEF’s long term presence in all countries of the region, UNICEF is also closely involved in emergency preparedness and capacity building at national level, as well as early recovery.  This emergency, early recovery and development focus helps UNICEF ensure that responses are built with government and partners in sustainable ways.

Within the humanitarian architecture developed within the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) which regroups key non-Governmental UN and non-UN actors, UNICEF is also the global cluster lead in WASH and Nutrition, the sub-cluster lead for Child Protection and co-chairs the global Cluster for Education with Save the Children.  This responsibility implies that in all major emergencies UNICEF must be ready to lead the broader humanitarian community in these areas, beyond its own response capacity.

Regional Office function in Emergency

The Regional Office – under the leadership of the Regional Director - serves as the first point of call to Country Offices for support for emergency preparedness and response and in line with the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs), including since 2010 for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The Regional Office is also the primary support function for small and medium level emergencies, including the sourcing and provision of staff support from a regional emergency roster.
In 2012, ROSA supported the country offices in the region in the following:
• Technical support for mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), emergency preparedness actions into UNICEF key programming documents. India, Nepal, Pakistan Sri Lanka UNICEF new countries programmes documents were reviewed through a DRR/emergency preparedness lens.
• Monitor Country Offices’ early warning analyses; provide additional regional level early warning analysis, and providing a “back-up” trigger to emergency response where necessary. Prior to the monsoon season, a quick self- assessment checklist was provided to all countries in the region to evaluate their level of preparedness and gaps.
• Spearheaded an Inter-Agency Contingency Planning mission to the Maldives with other key humanitarian actors in the region to respond to a potential escalation of a political unrest.
• Provided in-country direct support to UNICEF office for the unfolding Internally Displaced People’s emergency in North West Pakistan.
• Facilitated a training workshop on UNICEF Emergency Preparedness and Response for Standby partners.
• On the basis of the Country Human Resources plan and with UNICEF headquarters, identified staff, including initiating contact with neighbouring offices for additional staff support.
• Approved appeal and funding requests put forward by the UNICEF Country Office, in consultation with UNICEF headquarters.
• Advocate strongly on emergency concerns, humanitarian principles, access and funding requirements in close coordination with UNICEF country offices and Headquarters.

© © UNICEF/Sri Lanka/2011/Rajat Madhok
Children and women marooned in a village in Eastern Sri Lanka. Freak floods destroyed scores of homes and left thousands homeless.






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Download: PDF

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