Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise sharply in East Asia and the Pacific. In total, 12.8 million positive cases and 274,923 deaths have been confirmed in the region, with Indonesia (4.2 million cases), Philippines (2.6 million cases), Malaysia (2.3 million cases) and Thailand (1.6 million cases) being the most affected.
A combined approach of supporting vaccine roll-out while continuing to focus on efforts to contain the spread of the virus and respond to the social-economic impacts of the pandemic is needed in order to save lives and alleviate suffering, especially for children.
An estimated 1.7 million children in the region are affected by severe wasting - this is expected to increase an average of 14 per cent from 2020 through 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF has provided 16.5 million children and adolescents with messages on healthy diets.
UNICEF has also supported 176,327 schools to implement safe school protocols and 32.2 million children with access to formal or non-formal education, including early learning.
Regional Funding Overview
In 2021, UNICEF is appealing for US$117.2 million to meet the humanitarian needs of children, adolescents and women affected by emergencies, including chronic, protracted humanitarian situations as well as UNICEF’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the East Asia and Pacific (EAP) region. So far, a total of US$61.2 million has been received against the 2021 EAP HAC (including US$32.7 million carried-over from 2020 and US$28.5 million received in 2021) from donors, including the Governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, European Commission, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, CERF, Global Partnership for Education, Gavi, Solidarity Fund, United Nations Office for South South Cooperation, several private donors and UNICEF committees in Australia, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, and the USA. UNICEF is currently in discussion with several public and private donors to raise funding for the US$56 million shortfall for the EAP regional response. UNICEF acknowledges the generous contribution of donors including private sectors supporting this joint effort to respond and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies in the EAP region. Please refer to Annex B and Annex C for more detailed information on funding per functional area and country.
In addition, UNICEF has also received US$93.1 million for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in East Asia and Pacific for 2021 in response to the Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) / COVAX appeal. The ACT-A / COVAX HAC appeal which was launched and is managed globally complements the EAP Regional HAC appeal by supporting country readiness for COVID-19 vaccine roll out, together with WHO and Gavi, while supporting the strengthening of health systems. This includes providing commodities needed for safe vaccine administration, such as cold chain equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hand hygiene (soap and hand sanitizer), operational costs for vaccine delivery and associated technical assistance. Crucially, this also includes support for vaccine delivery to humanitarian populations. The seven support areas are in alignment with the categories of National Deployment and Vaccination Plans and include: planning and coordination, prioritization and targeting, service delivery, training, monitoring and evaluation, vaccine cold-chain and logistics, communication and community engagement. Funding and results from the ACT-A / COVAX HAC appeal are reported through a separate global ACT-A situation report.
Regional Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 in EAP continued to rise sharply over the past three months. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 12.8 million positive cases and 274,923 deaths have been confirmed in the region, with Indonesia (4.2 million cases), Philippines (2.6 million cases), Malaysia (2.3 million cases) and Thailand (1.6 million cases) being the most affected. Countries across the region continue racing to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19; however, the pandemic and related control measures continue to disrupt essential health, nutrition, and social services and to drive steep declines in household incomes. A combined approach of supporting vaccine roll-out while continuing to focus on efforts to contain the spread of the virus and respond to the social-economic impacts of the pandemic is needed in order to save lives and alleviate suffering, especially for children.
The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to increase all forms of malnutrition for young children, but the most imminent concern is its impact on life-threatening wasting, particularly amongst the poorest children, who face an even greater struggle to access nutritious and affordable foods and required nutrition services. An estimated 1.7 million children in EAP are affected by severe wasting - the most life-threatening form of malnutrition. And this is expected to increase an average of 14 per cent from 2020 through 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the weaknesses in systems delivering water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in many contexts. Across the region, 89 million people do not have basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. At the beginning of the pandemic, three out of 10 households in East Asia and Pacific region did not have a dedicated place for washing hands with soap and water. More than half of the schools in the region did not have hand-washing facilities with soap and water available to students, and more than six out of 10 health care facilities in EAP lacked functional handwashing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer. As a result of the pandemic, millions of people had disrupted access to life-saving water and sanitation services as service providers struggled with staff health and safety concerns and financial difficulties.
Meanwhile, in the face of continuing high cases of COVID-19 spread through the delta variant, many countries in EAP have only partially reopened schools. Schools are partially open in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, while schools have remained fully closed in Fiji and the Philippines. Emerging evidence indicates increasing dropouts and learning loss due to the recurring and prolonged school closures combined with distance learning programmes not being on par with face-to-face teaching and learning. Schools in the Philippines (hosting 24.9m children) have remained closed since end of March 2020, making it one of the last countries globally with schools continuously closed for face-to-face learning. Partly thanks to UNICEF Philippines Country Office advocacy, the government is now planning to reopen a small number of schools in low-risk areas as a pilot. UNICEF is providing technical assistance to the government on the pilot school reopening in the hope of wider school reopening following the initial pilot. UNICEF is also supporting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in developing comprehensive guidance for the safe reopening and operation of schools.
As a result of school closures and economic shocks caused by COVID-19, the latest report on child labour (UNICEF/ILO) estimates that globally 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022. In EAP, 50,200 children are involved in child labour, accounting for one in every 16 children in the region, and 42 per cent of them are in hazardous work putting them at risk of physical and mental harm. Indonesia’s Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection has warned that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has increased the risk of children being pushed into child labour. Meanwhile, a regional survey on climate change and child protection in emergencies was carried out in Southeast Asia as part of a global joint initiative between IFRC and UNICEF. The survey reached 29,133 children and youth aged between 10 and 25 years. The findings suggest that climate change related disasters are a threat multiplier, elevating the potential risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect against children. The findings informed a recently released IFRC policy brief on anticipatory action and child protection.
The pandemic is also exacerbating the vulnerability of families to natural hazards, such as typhoons and floods, and protracted humanitarian situations due to unresolved conflict and political instability. This situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate as the country falls deeper into a situation of armed conflict and targeted violence, pushing a growing number of children into a situation of humanitarian needs. Further details on the situation in Myanmar and UNICEF’s response can be found in a separate situation report dedicated to the Myanmar 2021 HAC appeal.