Despite progress made through vaccination drives, people across South Asia continue to be threatened by new and deadly waves of COVID-19. Hard-won development gains benefiting women and children are compromised, including in learning, due to prolonged school closures and loss of livelihoods, with negative consequences on the nutrition, health and psychosocial well-being of over 600 million children.
Children throughout the region are subjected to natural disasters, including floods, cyclones, landslides, droughts and earthquakes. Harsh winters easily become life threatening, especially in conflict-affected areas.
Preparedness and disaster risk reduction remain life-saving, needed to prevent systems from collapsing and boost children and communities' resilience to withstand the impact of recurrent and predictable disasters.
UNICEF is requesting US$16.1 million to provide humanitarian assistance for Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka and overall humanitarian support across the region. This includes supporting healthcare, water and sanitation services, treatment of malnutrition, protection services, safe learning and strengthening social protection systems.
Countries in South Asia, home to nearly one third of world’s child population, are prone to yearly flooding, landslides, droughts, earthquakes and recurrent disease outbreaks. Additionally, the region is faced with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and conflict, as evidenced by a system-wide Level-3 emergency in Afghanistan and protracted refugee situations in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In 2021, the region was battered by natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, which seem to intensify and become more frequent as a result of climate change. In mid-May, Tropical Cyclone Tauktae alone affected over 11.7 million people in India, with its storm and flooding causing significant casualties and damage. Moreover, droughts with consequential challenges on access to clean water and food security affect various countries in the region. Sri Lanka remains the seventh-most malnourished country globally and the second-worst affected country in the region for wasting among children under 5 years of age.The COVID-19 pandemic caused sharp rises in poverty and inequality and negatively impacted the lives of vulnerable groups including children, women, adolescents, youth and persons with disabilities. South Asian countries have experienced massive outbreaks of COVID-19 that resulted in over 38.5 million people contracting the disease and more than 541,000 deaths (1.4 per cent case fatality rate). Socioeconomic impacts remain immeasurable to date and have reversed some of the hard-earned development gains made in recent decades. Internal displacement and refugee movements with regard to Afghanistan and the protracted refugee crisis in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh spill over national borders, triggering humanitarian challenges with regional dimensions. Continued monitoring, timely preparedness and assurance of swift response remain of vital importance to the most vulnerable children. Multiple concurrent humanitarian crises, some with regional cross-border dimensions, are testimonies of the complexity of humanitarian action in South Asia, calling for urgent UNICEF support.