The South Asia region is prone to flooding, landslides, droughts and earthquakes, and faces a number of protracted conflicts and related internal and cross-border population displacement. By the end of March 2017, the refugee return crisis from Pakistan and Iran to Afghanistan – brought about by the obligatory or forced repatriation of Afghan refugees from both Pakistan and Iran to their country of origin – will affect an estimated 1.5 million people, 60 per cent of whom are children under 18. In both countries, clashes between government forces and armed groups are triggering internal displacement. In Nepal, children are still suffering from the effects of the 2015 earthquake, where school reconstruction is an ongoing challenge due to funding shortages and political challenges and children continue to be exposed to high landslide risk in earthquake-affected areas. Drought is becoming an increasingly important hazard in the region, with at least 10 states in India and almost half of Afghanistan severely affected. In Pakistan, drought has led to a steady increase in the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) among children under 5, particularly in Sindh province. In 2016, in northern and central Bangladesh, massive floods affected 3.7 million people, and in Sri Lanka, Tropical Cyclone Roanu affected 301,500 people. In November, Bangladesh started being impacted by events occurring in Myanmar following security operations in northern Rakhine State after an attack on border posts guards in October. As of early April, this has resulted in 74,000 Rohingya refugees crossing into Bangladesh and in need of humanitarian assistance.
Regional humanitarian strategy
The Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) will continue to provide technical assistance to the eight country offices in the region to strengthen national capacity development for risk and conflict analysis, disaster risk reduction and resilience-building strategies, including climate change adaptation, focusing in particular on the most vulnerable groups. ROSA will provide technical support to fulfil the UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, particularly in the areas of nutrition; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and child protection. Country offices will be supported to develop skills in the areas of partnership management in emergencies, capacity building for emergency preparedness and response, and staff security, with a specific emphasis on strengthening sub-national partner capacities. The Regional Office will also promote peer exchanges and cross-country learning for staff and partners. The new partnership with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Disaster Management Centre and the Environmental Management Centre will continue to be pursued, focusing on issues related to child-centred disaster risk reduction and child-sensitive climate change adaptation. ROSA will work with regional partners to support country office initiatives related to the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction regional plan of action. In 2017, a particular focus will be placed on strengthening comprehensive school safety in the region. As part of preparedness efforts, UNICEF will maintain technical capacity to support the mitigation and management of risks to its staff and assets. The overall approach is to create synergy across ROSA functions, notably emergencies, planning, programme sectors, operations, communication and evaluation, to maximize a comprehensive package of technical guidance and support to UNICEF country offices and partners. This is particularly needed as UNICEF begins to address the escalating hazard of drought in the region and its direct implications on the nutritional status of children in South Asia, which will require multi-sectoral and multi-level strategies and actions.
Results in 2016
As of 31 October 2016, UNICEF had received US$8.1 million against the US$15 million appeal (54 per cent funded).1 ROSA supported country offices and their government partners through regional capacity development initiatives on child-centred disaster risk reduction, child-inclusive risk assessment and comprehensive school safety, which led to country-specific partnership agreements on disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, especially in the education sector. Emergency preparedness response trainings were provided to staff and partners in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. ROSA provided Bangladesh and Nepal with technical support on the mitigation and management of risks to UNICEF staff and assets. Emergency surge support was extended to Sri Lanka for flood response in May 2016 and Afghanistan for the refugee return crisis in October 2016. Both country offices received support via the regional pass-through funding mechanism.