European Commission and UN OCHA partner up to improve disaster preparedness in the Caucasus and Central Asia

3 September 2012, ALMATY - For the first time since establishing its presence in Central Asia in 2007, the Regional Office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for Caucasus and Central Asia signs a year-long grant agreement with the European Commission's Department of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). The grant comes within the framework of ECHO's worldwide Disaster Preparedness programme (DIPECHO) that for the past 16 years has addressed vulnerabilities in dozens of countries at risk of devastating disasters.

By supporting UNOCHA’s regional office, ECHO attests to the organization's timely and important work. The regional office covers eight countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – with a combined population of over 77 million. All eight countries are prone to a range of disasters, as any of a year's seasons can suddenly turn into an emergency situation that overwhelms the affected government and warrants international help.

In the absence of ongoing major humanitarian crises in the region, the primary focus of UNOCHA's activities is to ensure that governments, non-governmental sector and UN agencies are prepared to their best abilities to react quickly if an emergency strikes and to do so in close cooperation with each other. In this region, UNOCHA has coordinated international humanitarian response in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

UNOCHA offers a wealth of expertise in contingency planning, simulation exercises, information management for emergencies and communicating in emergencies. So far only this year, UNOCHA has trained over one hundred emergency specialists from the region’s governments, United Nations family, national and international NGOs.

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