UNICEF Humanitarian Action Report 2008 - Mid-Year Review

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 17 Nov 2008 View Original
Asia and the Pacific

Problem Statement/Context: The Asia Pacific region has an emergency profile characterized by a combination of natural disasters, civil/political unrest with pockets of conflict situations, and recent emerging new global threats such as high food and fuel prices crisis, the threat of pandemic influenza and other emerging diseases. In terms of natural disasters, the Asia-Pacific region is considered specifically vulnerable to floods and landslides, a yearly recurrent consequence of the seasonal rains coupled to possible formation of cyclones during the North Indian Cyclone season and typhoons during the North West Pacific Typhoon season, affecting most of the countries in the region. Further to floods, the pacific seismic belt puts at risk of major earthquakes a large number of nations including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Northern India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pacific Islands, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Timor Leste. Indonesia alone counts currently with four volcanoes in orange alert, meaning they can erupt any time soon.

During the first part of 2008, the region experienced two major emergencies, one in Myanmar - cyclone Nargis - and the other in China - Sichuan earthquake - which both had devastating consequences for millions of people, especially for the most vulnerable.

This year, the risk of drought has been identified as potential threat in three Indian States, and Afghanistan has just launched a joint emergency appeal to respond to the drought and high food price crisis for US$ 404.3 mio., for which UNICEF has committed to implement nutrition and WASH activities through the nutrition and WASH clusters.

Prolonged and escalating armed conflict in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as well as the deterioration of the security situation in Pakistan do not appear to augur of any early solution. Unresolved conflict characterized by fragile ceasefires and escalating tensions, and political instability triggering civil unrest continued to affect the region, especially Nepal, Bangladesh, Timor Leste, Thailand, Philippines and Myanmar further increasing the number of IDPs and refugees in the region. Access for humanitarian aid is still an issue in many of these countries.

The increase in food prices is closely tangled with the emergency profile of this larger region, and further exacerbated by the already high rates of malnutrition including high rates of stunting and pockets of severe acute malnutrition in countries with conflict situations. Prices have increased, which could further escalate given the destruction of crops following natural disasters (cyclone in Bangladesh and Myanmar, drought in Afghanistan, floods in Pakistan and China). Food prices could also put strain on the already fragile political stability in some countries. The threat of pandemic influenza is continuously being closely monitored as well as other emerging diseases such as cholera. Laos reported a sudden and severe cholera outbreak early 2008.