Afghanistan + 5 more

South Asia Appeal No. 01.24/2002 Programme Update No. 1

Originally published


Appeal Target: CHF 2,948,770; budget revised to CHF 2,964,976
Programme Update No 1; Period covered: 1 January- 30 June 2002

Appeal coverage: 75.8% (against the indicative revised budget)
Related Appeals: Annual Appeal 2002 as follows: 01.25/02 for Afghanistan, 01.26/02 for Bangladesh, 01.27 for Nepal, 01.28/02 for Pakistan and 01.29/02 for Sri Lanka
Outstanding needs: CHF 1,264,395

Summary: Significant progress has been made in strengthening the national societies in South Asia during this period, including: a secretaries general meeting and a regional partnership meeting, the development of a Regional Co-operation Strategy (RCAS), a regional change management workshop, a new HIV/AIDS network, workshops on ReachOut; how to work with refugees/Internally displaced and on the Better Programme Initiative (BPI) as well as continuing constitutional review.

Introducing the Strategy for the Movement as a co-ordination tool with the national societies and ICRC will enhance better co-ordination of resources. The strategy for the Movement is the framework for the RCAS and has wide ownership by all national society in South Asia and major stakeholders.

Operational Development w

Overall objective for the operation:

The mission of the Federation's South Asia Regional Delegation (SARD) is 'to work as a co-ordinated Federation team with all members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and external stakeholders to facilitate better use of regional resources, mutual learning and support between national societies and other partners to deliver self-sufficient, relevant programmes in disaster preparedness and response, health care in the community, and the promotion of humanitarian values'.

Priority programmes for Federation assistance (as per the South Asia appeal for 2002:

Deciding on priority programmes that reflect the priorities emanating from the Hanoi declaration and adherence to the four core areas of Strategy 2010 is no easy task when the region's massive population and overwhelming humanitarian needs are taken into consideration. Identified regional priorities for 2002-2003 are:

  • Disaster preparedness and response.
  • Health capacity strengthening (including scaling up of HIV/AIDS).
  • Organisational, finance and resource development.
  • Information and advocacy strengthening and the promotion of humanitarian values.
General overview of the context and operational developments:

Significant progress has been made in strengthening the national societies in South Asia during this period, including: a secretary generals meeting, a regional partnership meeting, the development of a RCAS and a regional change management workshop, establishment of a new HIV/AIDS network, ReachOut, a new initiative designed to increase knowledge and sensitises people to improve working practices with refugees/IDPs, Better Programme Initiative (BPI), and continuing constitutional review.

Introducing the Strategy for the Movement as a co-ordination tool with the national society and ICRC, will enhance better co-ordination of resources. The strategy for the Movement is the framework for the regional CAS and has wide ownership by all national society in South Asia and major stakeholders.

The National Societies are providing a steadily improving service delivery to the most vulnerable populations while building stronger relationships with existing partners and cultivating new partners.

The regional programmes are generally operating within the planned time frames. Due to increasing tensions in the region and likely emergency needs, and noting the large numbers of refugees and IDP's in the region and the likelihood of further movements, greater emphasis is being placed on improving the regional Red Cross and Red Crescent disaster response capabilities. During this period this was done through adding a ReachOut training for the Indian Red Cross and NGOs in India as well as adding a regional BPI and disaster relief training in Sri Lanka.

The heightening of tension between Pakistan and India in May/June and the deteriorating situation in Nepal in terms of insurgency in opposition to the Government, meant that some delegates were redeployed in Sri Lanka for two weeks in early June, and country programmes in Nepal have been hampered. The flare up in border tensions between Pakistan and India during the past seven months is worrying and the national society are acknowledging they need to increase their response capacity in the border states, with the support of ICRC.

The positive exception has been Sri Lanka. As the cease fire continue to hold and peace prevails, new opportunities are arising for the Federation and ICRC to further strengthen the capacity of the SLRCS in hitherto remote, and difficult to reach, branches.

The changes in government is bringing hope of a new beginning for Afghanistan. However, the reconstruction of the infrastructure, following the devastation over the past two decades, will be a lengthy and expensive process. The prolonged war has put a terrible strain on the most vulnerable and their resources Afghanistan has gone through 23 years of war and internal strife, causing an ever growing deterioration of its socioeconomic situation. In most development rankings, the country belongs to the lowest group. Afghans are the largest refugee group in the world for the 20th consecutive year. Many Afghans have fled the country and are only slowly beginning to return, with the hope of a new beginning in the country. A 3rd revision of the previously named Humanitarian Crisis appeal was issued on 14 May (Appeal 32/01) to assist 2,133,500 beneficiaries for 16 months.

At the same time, Afghanistan is entering its fourth year of drought. The snow and rainfall have in the early months of the year has not been enough to counteract the effect of the drought or to ensure sufficient water in the rivers for the coming year. Afghanistan is also extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The seismic fault that bisects the country is the site of frequent earthquakes, while snow-melt from the mountains and spring rains combine to trigger landslides and floods.

A strong earthquake, 6.2 on the Richter scale, occurred in Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains on 25 March. Aftershocks continued and brought further damage. The epicentre of the earthquakes was southeast of Nahrin in Baghlan province, northern Afghanistan, 160 km east of Mazar-i-Sharif. The affected area extends to 12 to 15 km around Nahrin, comprising 40 villages with an estimated affected population of 80,000. The death toll is estimated at 800, and 10,000 people were left homeless. Access to the affected area has been difficult because of bad roads, and is hampered by mines laid during several battles over recent years.

Another earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale occurred on 12 April and an appeal (no 10/2002) to meet the needs for 80,000 beneficiaries for 9 months in relation to the recent earthquakes was issued on 12 April.

While the progress on the country operation will be reported on separately, the regional delegation has been able to provide vital training to members of the Afghan Red Crescent Society at regional training courses on disaster response and change management which has served to increase their knowledge and reintegrate ARCS staff back in a region they have been isolated from for a long time. The chance for ARCS leadership to share ideas and learn from other national society leaders in Sri Lanka at the change management workshop was an important step for the reintegration of the society into the movement.

In Pakistan the needs of our traditional beneficiaries remain much the same. The situation continues to be prevailed by instability in the region. Consequences of ongoing political, social and economic uncertainty affects millions of people in this country and translates into increased vulnerability to all forms of hazard. Pakistan is one of the disaster prone countries in the region and is threatened by a variety of natural and man-made disasters. Natural hazards include earthquakes, drought, landslides, mud flows, avalanches and floods. A significant threat has also been the continuing conflict over territorial claims between Pakistan and neighboring India (see below). The recent dramatic developments in Afghanistan has only coupled the challenges faced by the country - today there are over two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan with many of them residing here for 20 years now. Their needs also give cause for concern.

Considering that prior to September 11 Pakistan had only one outposted regional health delegate, in the past the past nine months the support for the most vulnerable population has increased dramatically through the formation of a country delegation and establishment of sub delegations in Quetta and Peshawar. One example is the expanded water programme to support 140,000 refugees in different refugee camps in the Baluchistan province.

After last years attack on the Indian Parliament, for which India blamed Pakistan and spared no time to move troops to the border, tensions between Pakistan and India increased. The 14 May attacks in the Kashmir valley killing 30 people and the killing of Abdul Ghani Lone, considered the tallest of moderate Kashmiri politicians, added to the instability.

The numbers of troops swelled to a million men on both sides of the international border. During a period, India also moved its battle ships from its eastern fleet into the Arabian Sea. Pakistan, on the other hand tested short-range missiles.

Indian and Pakistani forces have been trading artillery and mortar fire across the Line of Control (or ceasefire line) in disputed Kashmir creating a serious concern within and outside the countries of war between the nuclear neighbours. In Pakistan, a couple of attacks on civilian targets where foreign civilians were killed added on to the serious picture.

At its peak end of May and beginning of June, many embassies urged their citizens to depart, pulled out nonessential staff and authorized compulsory evacuation of dependents.

For the Red Cross/Red Crescent these developments lead to continued inability of direct travel between the two countries and significant difficulties for delegates and national society personnel to travel around the region. Co-ordination increased between the Federation delegations and the ICRC as well as with other interlocutors. The reallocation/evacuation plans were reassessed and updated.

IOC Delegates close to the conflict border were reallocated to Delhi which has disrupted the progress of the earthquake recovery and some SARD delegates were reallocated two weeks to Sri Lanka. Fortunately, the situation improved and the planned redeployment of IOC to Chennai did not have to take place. At the time of producing this report the situation has somewhat improved, however the risk for terrorist attacks remains to be a concern.

Further instability in India, but at least from a security point treated as separate from the a.m. events, are the events in India's western state of Gujarat. Since 27 February the state has been subjected to serious communal unrest and violence after an attack on an Ahmedabad bound passenger train at Godhra railway station. The communal riots, which claimed about 1,000 lives and homes to 100,000 people, came as Gujarat was recovering from a prolonged drought and a devastating earthquake in January 2001 which killed more than 20,000. Earthquake recovery and rehabilitation efforts have been substantially hampered.

Ahmedabad, the worst riot hit city, at one time had 60 makeshift camps where 80,000 people took shelter. Since early days of the communal unrest, the India Red Cross Society (IRCS) was quickly into action to provide support to 8,000 victims in 11 selected camps in the city with the assistance of CHF 56,180 released from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The relief operation which received further support of 10 million rupees (CHF 370,000) from the prime minister's office extended until 19 April. Around 10,000 families have benefited from the relief distribution. Now, four months since the communal riots began, tensions continue to simmer with sporadic reports of rioting across Gujarat. The Society has started the second phase of relief operation on 1 May with additional 20 million rupees sanctioned by the government, aimed to assist 8,000 families who are still seeking refuge in 56 relief camps in seven other districts in Gujarat to resettle their lives and to earn their livelihood.

This year, the southwest monsoon arrived on 14 May over the north Andaman Sea around its normal date whereas early monsoon rains in mid June have flooded India's remote northeast state, Assam, affecting 30,000 people. More than 20,000 families of 30 villages have already taken shelter in schools and platforms raised in the hardest-hit Dhemaji district. Some of the Red Cross disaster preparedness projects have also been disrupted. The weather office has warned that the situation could worsen in the region. Earlier climate forecast also expected 'weak to moderate' El Niño conditions with a possible adverse impact on the monsoon which need to be closely monitored. In water-starved western states of India, however, a good monsoon is prayed for and predicted this year. The IRCS headquarters is maintaining close contact with the branches and government authorities to prepare for the monsoon season. The Federation continues to liaise on support to the Society. During the first quarter of the year in Bangladesh, political unrest and a deteriorating law and order situation continued in the country. The opposition party Awami League are still boycotting participation in the national parliament. The first Hartals (national strike) of the season started and will certainly continue over the coming months. Federation security regulations are still strictly enforced in Dhaka.

The situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts remains the same. International donors still have security concerns before committing any further funding. Close contact is maintained with several major international countries relating to financial support for the Federations/BDRCS's health and WATSAN programmes. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) anticipated that the GDP growth rate in Bangladesh in the year 2002 is likely to decline to 4-4.5 per cent from 5.2 per cent last year due to unfavorable external environment, the economic fallout from the September 11th last year and relatively weak domestic demand.

In early March 2002, BDRCS hosted the South Asia Partnership meeting attended by representatives from 20 countries. Following the partnership meeting, a two-day Co-operation Agreement Strategy workshop was held to finalize a BDRCS second generation three-year CAS document. External donors WFP, ECHO, DFID EC and AusAID also participated and gave valuable feedback to this document.

The BDRCS continues to provide vital services through a series of community-based programmes and at branch level with volunteers responding quickly to the plethora of disasters, either localised of divisional. As one of the strongest national society in South Asia, the NRCS in Nepal is facing challenges and constraints of magnitude hitherto known, with the antigovernment insurgency groups, spreading their control across large parts of Nepal. In some respects. NRCS programmes have been restricted in some areas but with its nationwide network of branches, most still operate ICRC, SARNA .

Finally in Sri Lanka the Norwegian facilitating team continued to conduct meetings with the Government and the LTTE in order to finalise a document that would secure a truce which would create a conducive environment for further discussions. In February, the work resulted in a cease fire agreement which at the at the end of June was still holding.

The drought that has gripped specific areas of Southern Sri Lanka's Hambantota District for the past two and a half years continues unabated. More than 400,000 people, some 80% of Hambantota's population, have been affected by the long term effects of the drought. In August 2001 an appeal was launched to support the Sri Lanka Red Cross. The 2001 appeal, which reached 21,000 was completed during the time of a reassessment mission in February 2002. The conclusion of the programme was designed to coincide with the arrival of the southwest monsoon (April/May). However, in accordance with the weather patterns of the past two and a half years, the rains failed to reach the most severely affected areas ensuring a continuation in the already serious drought situation. Two Red Cross assessments during the spring have confirmed the need and a new appeal (18./2002) to support 18,000 beneficiaries for 9 months was launched on 1 July.

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