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South East Asia Appeal No. 01.30/2002 Annual Report

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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: www.ifrc.org
Appeal No. 01.30/2002;
Appeal target: CHF 4,909,189;
Appeal coverage: 60%

Overall analysis of the programme

South East Asia is one of the most populous regions in the world with over 538 million people in mid-2002. The region is comprised of 11 countries with great disparity in social and economic terms -from affluent Singapore to desperately poor East Timor, Myanmar and Laos. In addition to diversity in terms of size and population, countries of the region are also characterised by significant social, political, cultural and economical diversity. The UNDP human development index in 2002 indicated this disparity, with Singapore (25) and Brunei (32) still enjoying a high level of development while East Timor (153), Laos (143), Cambodia 130), Myanmar (127), Indonesia (110), and Vietnam (109) lagging behind.

The challenges facing the region are at the same time enormous. Poverty is still widespread with at least 100 million people living below the poverty line. Although traditionally most widespread in the countryside, increasing rural to urban migration has seen the number of urban poor expand rapidly. Combined with high unemployment and poor living conditions, the health situation is deteriorating in cities with, for example, increased incidence of dengue epidemics and increasing HIV/AIDS infection rates. Meanwhile, access to proper health care, clean water and basic infrastructure remains a challenge for many people - both in the cities and rural communities.

Substantial economic differences between countries have also led to an extensive labour migration within the region. Much of this is considered illegal by 'host' governments, which gives rise to vulnerability among migrants. Trafficking of women and children has been a growing problem, with the main countries of origin assumed to be Thailand, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines while the major countries of transit and destination are assumed to be Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.

Politically, the situation in the region remains relatively stable, although there is a strong undercurrent in several countries - most noticeably the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar. In Indonesia tension has risen following the US 'war on terrorism' - culminating with the Bali bomb attack in October. Of the three countries, it appears Myanmar is probably the most 'stable'. Even so, the release in 2002 of the leader of the opposition from house arrest, and UN sponsored dialogue with the military junta, has so far not produced any convincing indications that point to major changes in current government policy.

Although the region is extremely vulnerable to disasters, 2002 was relatively 'quiet' in this regard. There were, however, a number of recorded typhoons, floods, landslides and earthquakes, which caused severe damage to infrastructure and directly affected millions of people by destroying their houses, crops and animals. The annual Mekong floods were relatively minor in the countries normally affected (Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam), and certainly caused much less damage and destruction than the devastating floods in 2000.

Economically the region is slowly recovering from the crisis of 1997-1998, with notable progress made in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The Asian Development Bank reports that the South East Asian economies performed generally better than had been expected, with consumer demand and exports strengthening. Inflation is not an issue in most countries, with a 3.9 per cent average in the region in 2002. The forecast remains cautiously optimistic, with GDP growth of 3.8 per cent in 2002 and a forecast of 4.6 per cent in 2003.

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