As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the region, a relentless series of typhoons and flooding is exacerbating the impact of the pandemic in the region.
To date, 1,263,233 positive COVID-19 cases and 31,938 deaths have been confirmed in the region, with Indonesia (433,836 cases) and the Philippines (393,961 cases) being the most affected.
After most countries reopened schools over the past months, some countries are reclosing schools again as a precautionary measure after the detection of new cases of COVID-19.
An additional 2.6 million people were reached with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies and services, including WASH in schools, during the reporting period, for a total of over 13.3 million people reached since January 2020.
To date, UNICEF and partners provided 58.8 million children, parents and primary caregivers with mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), including direct and indirect interventions ranging from individual and group counselling to large scale MHPSS messaging.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the region, a relentless series of typhoons and flooding is exacerbating the risks of increased disease burden, malnutrition, disruption to education and risks to protection, on top of the ongoing socio-economic impact of the pandemic in the region. To date, 1,263,233 positive COVID-19 cases and 31,938 deaths have been confirmed in the region, with Indonesia (433,836 cases) and the Philippines (393,961 cases) being the most affected. While containment measures have been eased in many countries, some countries have reintroduced containment measures as new community transmission of COVID-19 is detected. Restrictions on border crossings and flight operations remain in effect throughout the region.
On 1 November, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Goni (Rolly), which has put 845,000 individuals in need of humanitarian assistance. Maintaining minimum public health standards for COVID-19 has been a challenge in evacuation centres, which are stretched beyond their capacity. Before returning to their communities, evacuees will need to undergo symptom screening and monitoring for COVID-19 since there are not enough resources for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing of all evacuees returning home. The typhoon damaged more than a thousand schools and impacted learning of 120,000 students, as access to teachers supporting distance learning is disrupted. Meanwhile, since 6 October, the central region of Viet Nam has been hit by consecutive typhoons and tropical depressions, which have brought sustained heavy rains resulting in landslides and cascading floods. Beyond the loss of life, millions of relocated people have had to cope with homes destroyed, food loss and submerged sanitation facilities. Water supply networks have been damaged and water sources contaminated, putting the population, particularly children and women, at risk of water-borne diseases. At least 360 schools have been flooded and have suffered varying degrees of damage to buildings, equipment and learning materials, hampering children’s ability to continue their learning. In Cambodia, approximately 1,000 schools were affected by floods, further exacerbating challenges faced by the education system as a result of COVID-19.
In other parts of the region, after most countries reopened schools over the past few months, some countries are reclosing schools again as a precautionary measure after the detection of new cases of COVID-19. The government of Malaysia announced the immediate closure of all schools in the country, citing the country’s increasing cases of COVID-19, disrupting the education of around 6.7 million children for a second time this year. The full closure of schools follows previous temporary localized closures in high-risk areas affecting 1.7 million children in October. Schools in Cambodia's capital and the surrounding province closed for face-to-face classes for the coming two weeks as a precaution after a visiting foreign diplomat was tested positive for COVID-19. The measure will affect around 500,000 children. In closing their schools both countries are joining Myanmar, which closed all schools for a second time; the Philippines, where all schools remain fully closed for face-to-face classes; and Indonesia, where schools are allowed to reopen for face-to-face classes in low/moderate risk areas only. Finally, in Mongolia, due to the first case of community transmission of COVID-19 on 11 November, the government issued the decision to close all kindergartens, schools and higher education institutions from 11-14 November.
One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is children’s mental health and psycho-social well-being. Many children are facing increased protection risks, stress, trauma and anxiety; some children are also exposed to a higher risk of neglect, sexual exploitation and abuse. Recent articles have highlighted the prevalence of violence against children and gender-based violence during COVID-19 in Indonesia and the Philippines. In Indonesia, the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection reported that over 50 million children have been subjected to physical and verbal abuse during the pandemic (representing over half the children in the country). In the Philippines, UNFPA and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development reported increases in maternal deaths, unintended pregnancies, violence against women and children, and child marriage while lockdown measures have been in place.
Meanwhile, the restoration of nutrition services in all countries in the region has continued to gain momentum. In October, an additional one million children received nutrition services bringing the total number of children with access to essential nutrition to 3.8 Million (97% of target) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, many governments have begun preparing for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. UNICEF has been supporting preparedness efforts for COVID-19 vaccine introduction through strategy development, demand generation, targeting and real-time implementation monitoring, supply chain support and capacity development of health workers.