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East Asia: Plan 2009-2010 (MAA54001)

Situation Report
Originally published
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Executive summary

There are five nations within the East Asia region: Mongolia, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Japan. The region is at high risk for a wide range of disasters and health emergencies, accounting for more than 63 percent of Asia's reported disaster casualties (mostly due to the massive floods in China) and 64 percent of Asia's disaster related economic losses in 2007. Considering East Asia accounted for only 22 percent of Asia's reported disasters in 2007, the statistics demonstrate that the impact on populations and their well-being is comparatively higher in East Asia.(1)

One reason for this is that poverty is still prominent in the region, with many populations left vulnerable to recurring disasters and the spread of disease. Migrant urban populations from impoverished or disaster stricken rural areas further complicate the social and economic structure of the countries, and make disaster relief or health promotion efforts of the humanitarian organizations, such as the Red Cross increasingly challenging.

As auxiliaries to their governments, especially in times of disaster response, each of the East Asia national societies provides needs-based services that centre on the four Global Agenda Goals, which contribute towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals as agreed upon by each of these nations. The International Federation has been active in supporting the Red Cross Societies in the East Asia region for many years, with a regional office located in Beijing since 1999.

The overall purpose of this 2009-10 plan is to coordinate and support International Federation efforts at country and regional level to assist the national societies of the region to scale up their work in line with the Global Agenda. The East Asia regional office will continue to evolve its role as a part of the new secretariat zonal structure and operating model. This model has been designed in order to create a more unified approach to Federation support to national societies across the whole of Asia Pacific. In line with the zonal strategy, the work of the regional office in 2009-10 will take the following directions:

- Strategic guidance and management of the country-level Federation offices in DPRK and Mongolia;

- Provision of technical support to national societies as required, in particular China, DPRK and Mongolia;

- Developing institutional memory, promoting regional networking and ensuring sharing of lessons learnt;

- Developing a more pro-active approach to Movement coordination, including specific relationship management responsibility with partner national societies.

This plan aims to support the national societies' programmes in the areas of disaster management, health and care, the promotion of humanitarian values with cross-cutting opportunities for organizational development and capacity building. This will be achieved through a balance of programme and technical support, as well as advocacy, coordination and international representation.

The total budget for 2009 is CHF 1,335,027 (USD 1,220,317 or EUR 850,335) and for 2010 is CHF 1,316,845 (USD 1,203,697 or EUR 838,755).

Regional context

East Asia is a diverse and complex region that is comprised of five countries: Mongolia, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Japan. These nations represent a wealth of diversity within and amongst their borders, in terms of historic significance, culture, politics, socio-economic factors, demography and geography. The issues these nations face are equally diverse when it comes to humanitarian needs, such as environmental degradation, effects of climate change, disaster relief and the health concerns of the public.

How these issues affect each population greatly vary as well, with complex problems requiring complex solutions and tight partnerships and networks. For example, China is a country with a population of 1.3 billion, while its neighbour Mongolia has only 2.6 million, which is less than many urban populations in major cities in China. Yet, when a disaster hits, both countries are faced with the challenges of accessibility, timely distribution of relief items and adequate funding to meet needs.

The countries have wide disparities in economic wealth, also within their borders. Even though China, for example, has an economic development rate of 10-11 percent per year, an inordinately high percentage, at least 16 percent of the population is still living on less than USD 1 per day and in Mongolia that figure is at 27 percent. The World Bank estimates that 552 million of the world's 1.1 billion poor are living in East Asia.

The types and frequencies of natural disasters are equally daunting. Set along numerous fault lines, the region is often hit with earthquakes, some of which have been the worst in history. This past year, China was hit with its worst earthquake in 30 years, affecting 15 million people. Typhoon activity has increased with damages causing wide-spread flooding, destruction, and death. Emergency appeals for flooding have been launched in the DPRK in 2007 and in China for the past two years. Winter months bring the risk of excessive snow downfall, especially in Mongolia, which can strand whole communities and destroy livestock, crops and property. In the summer months, drought causes the loss of millions of hectares of crops every year, further depleting both income and food supply for the population.

The regional health context has also been complex and rapidly changing in the past years. The diversity of East Asia's countries in terms of demographics and socio-economic development is reflected in the nature of the risks posed by HIV/AIDS and the epidemiology in each of the five countries. The rapid spread of the HIV virus is a constant threat to the region, thus governments and Red Cross societies are taking action to promote awareness and prevention. At the same time, concerns of other epidemics, such as avian influenza, hand foot and mouth disease, malaria, and tuberculosis, are ever-present in the region.

Besides disasters and the spread of diseases, ongoing rapid urbanization, population movements, ageing population and other broad social phenomena are having a collective impact on the nature and extent of health problems in the region. These, of course, change how disasters and diseases affect the populations, and ultimately affect how the Red Cross responds in each situation.

For example, many of the communities in disaster prone areas in East Asia have been unable to cope with the frequent onset of disasters. What was once an annual occurrence, has spread into multiple disasters that build upon one another, such as summer droughts followed by dzud2 in Mongolia, making agricultural production virtually impossible, or the examples in 2008 in which Sichuan province, China, was hit with heavy snows in February, followed by the devastating earthquake in May, immediately followed by heavy torrential rains through the summer. Populations of the DPRK face annual flooding, compounded with health concerns, including malnutrition due to the ensuing food shortage around the world.

People living in these disaster prone areas are unable to cope time after time, especially after losing their homes. Many chose to move to the urban areas, hoping for better opportunities, only to be left more vulnerable to the spread of disease, often without adequate health care and social services. In many cases, it is up to humanitarian organizations, such as the Red Cross, in each area to help these populations overcome these circumstances, and protect themselves from the affects of disasters and diseases.