Chronic conflict, earthquakes, recurrent seasonal storms, floods, droughts, and severe winter weather, as well as limited government response capacity, present significant challenges to vulnerable populations in South Asia. Between Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 and FY 2012, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) have provided humanitarian assistance in response to a diverse range of natural and complex emergencies in the region, including cyclones in Bangladesh, earthquakes in India and Pakistan, and complex crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as floods throughout the region. Between FY 2003 and FY 2012, USAID provided nearly $2.3 billion in disaster response assistance in South Asia. USAID/OFDA assistance included approximately $762 million for programs in health, nutrition, protection, agriculture and food security, livelihoods, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), as well as support for humanitarian coordination and logistics and the provision of relief commodities. USAID/FFP assistance included more than $1.5 billion in emergency food assistance.
In the last decade, USAID deployed multiple humanitarian assessment teams to the region, including six Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DARTs). In December 2004, members of a multi-country DART responded to the impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami in India and Sri Lanka. A DART also deployed to Bangladesh in FY 2008 after Cyclone Sidr. However, USAID deployed the majority of recent DARTs in South Asia to Pakistan, including DARTs following earthquakes in FY 2006 and FY 2009, conflict and displacement in FY 2009, and countrywide flooding in FY 2010. USAID has also activated multiple Washington, D.C.,-based Response Management Teams to support DART coordination and response efforts in the region.
Due to the recurrent or chronic nature of many of the disasters that affect the region, USAID/OFDA priorities include supporting and promoting activities to help reduce the vulnerability of populations at risk of climate-induced and human-made disasters, as well as to increase resilience to future shocks. USAID/OFDA has developed a DRR strategy in the region to complement emergency assistance interventions and address the underlying causes of vulnerability. The strategy emphasizes building local capacity to prepare for and respond to disaster events. As such, USAID/OFDA programs reduce the impact of emergencies in the region by increasing the capacity of local emergency response agencies and personnel and enabling communities to recognize hazards through early warning systems. DRR programs include flood preparedness in Bangladesh and the Hindu Kush-Himalayan mountain region, earthquake risk management in Nepal, disease early warning systems in Pakistan, climate-risk management in India, and hazard mapping in Afghanistan.
Through emergency and development food assistance programs, USAID/FFP works to save lives and reduce food insecurity in times of crisis and situations of chronic food insecurity. USAID/FFP emergency food assistance includes both in-kind food aid and cash-based assistance in the form of local and regional procurement of food commodities, cash transfers, and food vouchers, where market conditions allow.