Afghanistan + 5 more

South Asia Appeal No. 01.24/2002 Programme Update No. 2

Originally published
The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 178 countries. For more information:
Appeal Target CHF 2,948,770. Budget revised to CHF 2,964,976
Period covered: I July- 15 December 2002;


Appeal coverage 60%

Related Appeals: Annual Appeal 2002: 01.25/02 Afghanistan, 01.26/02 Bangladesh, 01.27 Nepal, 01.28/02 Pakistan and 01.29/02 Sri Lanka

Outstanding needs: CHF 1,188,582

Summary: Continued progress has been made in strengthening the National Societies in South Asia. One of the major outcomes are the action points in the Kabul Pledge, adopted by all National Societies in South Asia at a Secretaries General Meeting in August. The Kabul Pledge displays a great commitment from all six National Societies to collectively strengthen their Societies and to be role models for change.

The regional disaster preparedness (DP) Policy Priorities document has been finalised. It was unanimously adopted by all senior Disaster Management participants in Sri Lanka in July and later approved by the South Asian Secretaries General.

The 6th Asia and Pacific Conference took place in Manila in November and the Manila Action Plan committed National Societies to focus more on population movements. In anticipation of this, a Regional Population Movement coordinator, an Afghan national, started her work in early October. The Manila Action Plan and other developments, such as the implementation of the Secretariat Change Strategy, are being incorporated the 4th draft Regional Cooperation Agreement Strategy. Further input from Partners as previously requested is welcomed.

Regional progress has also been made in areas such as:

  • Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment - the outcome of a workshop in October will provide important directions to the development of Disaster Management plans in National Societies;

  • Constitution revision - the National Societies' in the region have reaffirmed their collective commitments in this area. A regional branch development workshop in December confirmed that a strong legal base is an essential foundation of an overall organisational strengthening process. In this context significant progress has been made in all Societies, inspired by the successful completion of the processes and the creation of regional role models in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

  • Planning and reporting - four National Society reporting focal points are in place in the region to improve reporting and capacity building in this area. This is partly the result of the first Regional Planning and Reporting workshop in the region, in October.

  • Better Programme Initiative - National Societies programme planning in conflict sensitive areas has improved after a training of trainers (ToT) course in December in Nepal.

  • Information Technology - strategies to maximise the use of effective Information Technology (IT) to manage the flow of information and change have been shared between Pakistan, Nepal and Indian RC/RC Societies, using Nepal Red Cross experience of networking as an example.
The regional programs are generally progressing well with the exception of the regional Health Programme, after the tragic death of the Regional Health Delegate in August. A limited review of the regional health program will be done shortly to equip National Societies and the incoming health delegate on the latest needs and priorities.

Operational Development

Overall objective for the operation:

The South Asia Regional Delegation's (SARD) mission is 'to work as a co-ordinated Federation team with all members of the Red Cross/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 programs in disaster preparedness and response, health care in the community, and the promotion of humanitarian values'.

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

Deciding on priority programs 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 programmes);
  • Organisational, finance and resource development;
  • Information and advocacy strengthening and the promotion of humanitarian values.
General overview of the context and operational developments:

Events of September 11 in 2001 have changed the course of history in South Asia. These events have further destabilised the region which is impacting the whole world. Afghanistan is struggling to find some semblance of peace while border tensions between Pakistan and India have caused grave concern for the region's future. The conflict and political situation in Nepal is alarming and adds another dimension of insecurity in a region with has porous borders which allows growing violence, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and population movements. These borders pay no regard to natural disasters which can decimate hard gained economic improvements.

The positive exception again during this period has been Sri Lanka. As the cease fire continues to hold and peace prevails, new opportunities are arising for the Federation and ICRC to strengthen further the capacity of the Sri Lanka Red Cross in hitherto remote, and difficult to reach, branches.

The regional priorities continue to be developed through regular and intensive consultative process commencing with the Hanoi Declaration and followed by biannual Secretaries General meetings, regional partnership meetings and various regional technical meetings.

The cumulative result of this process was made during the meeting of the South Asia Secretaries General meeting in Islamabad in August 2002, when the 'Kabul Pledge' was adopted by all National Societies in the region. The Kabul Pledge is a strong commitment from all six National Societies to strengthen collectively their National Societies and to be role models for change.

The Kabul pledge states the following regional priorities:

  • Strengthening our humanitarian networks to share knowledge and best practice in how best to address the region's vulnerability to crisis, via coordinated policies and practices in disaster preparedness.

  • Making sure that the region's growing capability in disaster response is enhanced so that each National Society's capacity to respond in a timely and focused manner to crisis is increased.

  • Continuing to establish clear mechanisms for sister Societies, the Federation and the ICRC to assist on those occasions when our National Societies request support in the face of an overwhelming crisis.

  • Renewing efforts to break down barriers separating communities in our diverse region and building trust and links between groups to construct a future together. We will live and work in our communities and lead by example - under our emblem - in the cause of coexistence and tolerance.

  • Scaling up our commitment to confront the HIV/AIDS pandemic by making our prevention efforts more effective, improving treatment for people living with the virus and reducing the stigmatization of those who have HIV/AIDS. Our South Asia Regional Network on HIV/AIDS will coordinate responses as well as share lessons and best practice on how to reduce vulnerability to this health crisis.

  • Strengthening the National Societies role in the collection of safe blood and seeking more technical and policy support from the Secretariat.

  • Supporting the Asia and Pacific change implementation strategy and advocating for more authority and resources to the South Asia Regional Delegation so that it can serve in strengthening the capacities of National Societies in the region".
The 6th Asia Pacific conference1, took place in Manila between 24 and 28 November. The theme for this conference was 'Uniting for Human Dignity' and the outcome provided clear action plans. A meeting between leaders of the six National Societies in South Asia, the Federation's President, Secretary General, Head of Asia and Pacific and Head of Regional Delegation took place during this conference. It was evident in the meeting that the sense of regional cooperation and togetherness is high. The Federation's Secretary General and representatives from governance also expressed a high degree of satisfaction in the support they are receiving from the Federation at regional level.

What was clearly evident in Manila was that the South Asian National Societies are moving clearly in line with strategy 2010. They have adopted the Strategy for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as the framework for the Regional Cooperation Agreement Strategy and have positioned themselves well to carry through the Manila Action Plan.

Despite continuing security issues in some countries, the Federation's regional programs, with the exception of the regional Disaster Response program, are in line with their revised budgets. The DR program has a balance mainly due to a postponed regional workshop which will now be carried out during the first quarter of 2003.

Due to continued tensions in the region, potential 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 RC/RC disaster response and organisational capabilities. During the latter half of the year this was for instance done through adding a regional training of trainers workshop in Better Programme Initiative (BPI) in December and a branch development workshop in Sri Lanka, also in December.

General overview of the context and operational developments:

With sporadic fighting continuing across parts of Afghanistan instability remains a priority concern in the country still recovering from 23 years of war. Fears over ethnic violence and retribution killings are keeping thousands of refugees from returning to their homes in northern Afghanistan. Despite unprecedented levels of refugee repatriations, people are reluctant to return to the north and many are still fleeing their homes.

More than 1.7 million Afghan refugees and over 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) have returned home under the UNHCR-Afghan government repatriation programs, which started in March 2002. Most arrive with very little and their coping mechanisms have yet to be established. On top of that, there are over one million IDPs in different regions of the country.

Although the situation remains volatile, the Federation/Afghan Red Crescent operations are ongoing as planned without interruption. With the economy in ruins, limited access to food, lack of essential utilities such as health care, electricity, gas, water supply and sanitation facilities, large groups of the population are exposed to the combined effects of the winter, which include physical isolation, food insecurity, inadequate shelter and poverty.

Pakistan: An earthquake, which struck on 2 November destroyed hundreds of homes, while others were left uninhabitable in remote northern Pakistan. The earthquake killed at least eleven people and injured another 40. Over 2,000 earthquake victims were rescued and moved out of the remote mountainous area to safer locations by the government. The Pakistan Red Crescent responded rapidly by sending emergency relief materials to the affected areas.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to a UN-backed framework for the voluntary repatri-ation of an estimated 1.8 million Afghan refugees. Under the framework the voluntary returns will continue to be supported for the next three years, during which the situation will be reviewed periodically.

The Red Crescent continues to assist these vulnerable groups to meet the challenges of the winter months in the North West Front Province (NWFP) , while in Balochistan the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, supported by the Federation sub-delegation, is working closely with UNHCR regarding distributions of nonfood relief items.

During June and July the onset of the annual monsoon in the region intensified causing widespread flooding in northeastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh and Nepal the flooding was accompanied by severe landslides and river erosion. The subsequent increase in flooding further aggravated the suffering of the millions of people affected by this years monsoon. An additional matter of concern was the exceptionally high snow pack and glacial melt-rate being observed in the Himalayas which added to the already swollen river volume.

An emergency appeal to support 150,000 flood victims for four months was launched for Bangladesh in early August (appeal 21/2002) shortly followed by another appeal to support 130,000 monsoon and landslide victims for six months in Nepal (appeal 23/2002) and again another appeal to support 200,000 people affected by flooding for six months in India (appeal 24/2002).

During the reporting period political unrest and a deteriorating law and order situation continued in Bangladesh. In late July, the opposition party Awami League stopped boycotting participation in the national parliament and joined the budget session. The Hartals (national strike) continue.

The security situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) improved. International donors, in particular Danish government whose citizens were among the kidnapped in an incident last year, have now revised their restriction concerning their involvement in development programs in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In October 2002, the Bangladesh floods relief operation (appeal 21/2002) was successfully completed with all objectives from the emergency appeal having been met.

On 7 December, four bomb explosions went off in four cinemas in Mymensingh town, 110 km north of capital Dhaka. At least 17 people were killed and 200 injured. The cinemas were packed with about 2,000 people who had gone to see Bengali films following the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

In India, the communal violence that ripped through the earthquake-stricken Gujarat since February may appear to have ended, but the ruin it brought to thousands continues. Prolonged rioting has substantially hampered the rehabilitation efforts for the earthquake hit population, causing delays to most of the programs supported by the Federation and Indian Red Cross partner Societies in Gujarat. Despite continuous reports of sporadic communal clashes in some areas up to September, the situation in Ahmedabad which witnessed the worst of the violence was gradually improving and many people were leaving the relief camps to rebuild their livelihood. However, a terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in the state capital of Gandhinagar on 24 September in which 31 people were killed and 100 injured posed fear of another wave of communal rioting. The security situation after the Gujarat election on 12 December deteriorated again when communal clashes during victory celebrations were reported in different cities of Gujarat which left at least three persons dead. Curfews were imposed in some areas.

The early onset of monsoon rains caused widespread flooding in large parts of western and northeastern India (see the above mentioned appeal 24/2002). Ironically in other parts of India, with the monsoon reaching only 19 per cent of normal levels this year, the agriculturally dependent central and northern part of India have seriously lacked rain. Around 300 million people of at least 12 states have been directly affected by the dry spell. This is the most widespread drought India has faced in the last 15 years with Rajasthan being the worst hit. An emergency appeal relating to the drought has been drafted.

During November, a number of earthquakes of various magnitudes from 3.6 to 6.2 on the Richter scale were reported in some bordering and coastal regions of India including the drought affected state of Gujarat in the Rann of Kutch.

The seven year old conflict between the government and the armed opposition in Nepal which has escalated during the year remains volatile. A national State of Emergency for ten months, unsuccessful attempts to sustain peace talks, curfews in the most affected districts, and the deaths of nearly 4,400 persons due to the conflict over seven months alone have formed the key backdrop to events in the country. The dismissal of the government and the installation of a caretaker government by the King in October pending a new election schedule has brought further political instability.

The escalating violence has challenged the Nepal Red Cross to readjust quickly from delivering services which have developed in a peacetime environment for forty years, to managing change to enable it to adjust to operating in conflict sensitive situations. Several security incidents have been recorded against the Red Cross staff/members and property. The Federation and ICRC have been striving in a coordinated way to strengthen the National Society's strategies on how to respond to conflict while implementing its programs. The regional OD program has been vital in helping the Nepal Red Cross to adjust itself better to delivering services in an increasingly conflict sensitive environment.

In beginning of December, there were signs that the leadership of the armed opposition would sit for talks if the government created "a suitable atmosphere." According to news sources armed opposition have also decided to stop targeting infrastructure and attacks on individuals affiliated with political parties.

In Sri Lanka, an ambitious ceasefire with ethnic Tamil rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, has held for nine months, and three rounds of peace talks have made remarkable progress.

The drought that has gripped specific areas of Southern Sri Lanka's Hambantota District for the past two and a half years continued during the second half of the year but in September and October well awaited rain was received. More than 400,000 people, some 80% of Hambantota's population, have been affected by the long term effects of the drought. Two Red Cross assessments during the first half o the year confirmed the continued needs from last years' appeal and a new appeal (18/2002) was launched 1 July to support 18,000 beneficiaries for 9 months.

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1 A regional conference, is one of the statutory meetings, where the member Societies of the International Federation meet in each geographical region, in principle once every four years, for the purpose of considering issues which are of common and special interest to the National Societies in the region. The last regional conference before that held in Manila in November 2002 was in Hanoi, in 1998.