• As of 19 July 2020, 347,880 positive COVID-19 cases were confirmed in East Asia and Pacific, with 12,085 deaths. A surge of infection has seen cases more than double in Indonesia (84,882) and Philippines (65,304) over the past month.
• UNICEF continues supporting governments with the “Back to School Campaign”. So far, 12 countries in East Asia and Pacific have started the gradual reopening of schools. In countries where schools are not yet open, UNICEF supports the continued learning of over 70 million distance learners and is providing 51 million people with mental and psychosocial support.
• UNICEF continues supporting governments with their infection prevention and control (IPC) measures as well as communicating lifesaving information on COVID-19. To date, UNICEF and partners reached 793 million people with COVID-19 messages in the region.
• In order to continue responding to critical needs in countries most affected by COVID-19, UNICEF has revised its Global Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal for the COVID-19 response and is now seeking US$1.9 billion globally. As part of this appeal, the East Asia and Pacific regional response plan appeal increased to US$162 million. So far, a total of US$95.7 million has been received for the response in 2020.*
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The numbers of new COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in Indonesia (84,882 cases) and Philippines (65,304 cases) over the past month. Most other countries in the region continue to see a steady decline in the number of new cases. To date, 347,880 positive COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in East Asia and Pacific, with 12,085 deaths.
Almost all countries in the region have eased their lockdowns and are implementing protocols for their new normal; however, public gatherings are still restricted in countries across the region. Restrictions on border crossings and flight operations remain in effect.
The pandemic continues to have an adverse effect on the continuity of health services. Low coverage and access to essential health and nutrition services amid COVID-19 may lead to adverse health outcomes, such as outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases due to low rates of immunization. Routine immunization coverage has decreased in some countries across the region over the past several months, including Lao PDR, Malaysia, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. While coverage is starting to improve in some countries, challenges remain in closing the gap for those who missed out on vaccinations during the lockdowns, increasing the risk of measles, polio, diphtheria and pertussis outbreaks.
Meanwhile, the consequences of lockdowns, including economic impacts for families, continue to adversely affect the wellbeing of children and young people, including an increased risk of school dropout, violence, sexual and genderbased violence (SGBV), exploitation, abuse and neglect. Some countries in the region have noticed increased cases of violence in the last three months.
Country level rapid assessments on the impact of COVID-19 on children show that the economic impact is strongly being felt in the region. A rapid assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on children left unaccompanied while their parents are working, conducted by UNICEF Thailand, together with the Institute of Population and Social Research and Mahidol University, show that more than 90% of the households experienced decrease in income, regardless of the type of family care arrangement.
Child wasting remains the most pressing concern for nutrition in the region with pervasive household food insecurity, particularly amongst informal sector workers. Regional modelling conducted by UNICEF shows that six countries in the region are likely to see an increase of 25% in the prevalence of wasting over the next 12 months (wasting estimates).
Nutrition for school-age children, particularly for the poorest, is also likely to be affected as school feeding programs are disrupted and school reopening guidelines indicate that school canteens will all be closed during the first couple of months.
Schools continue to reopen in the region. Governments and school authorities are relying on gradual and staggered returns to school for specific grades or specific geographic areas. Indonesia for example, has limited the reopening of schools to geographic areas that are deemed low risk. Many countries are also relying on blended learning after school reopening, complementing face-to-face classes with distance learning to decrease the number of students and ensure physical distancing in classrooms. Students in countries which have not yet reopened their schools, such as Cambodia and Mongolia, continue to rely on distance learning, including online classes, TV, radio and take-home lessons to continue their education. Access to distance learning, especially online c lasses, remains challenging for many children across the region, especially the most marginalized, due to lack of devices, connectivity and language of instruction.
Countries, most notably the Philippines, also report significant decreases in re-enrolment for the current school year due to the economic impact of the pandemic on households. Despite the progress in reopening schools, COVID -19 continues to pose a serious risk to school reopening and education in the region. Schools in Beijing, China have closed again due to new cases of COVID-19 in the city, forcing children to resume online education.
Continued efforts are needed in order to ensure that the number of new cases do not flare up again and to support health systems, communities and families to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. In order to support governments in meeting these challenges, UNICEF is working with governments and partners across the region.