The surge in the deadly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) created a dire humanitarian situation across South Asia particularly overwhelming the health systems for several weeks since early March 2021. The COVID-19 has severely disrupted the socio-economic development in Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Nationwide school closures disrupted education with consequences that may result in a roll back of substantial gains made in the past years.
UNICEF continued to support scale-up responses of the governments, focusing on raising awareness, limiting the spread of COVID-19 and mitigating the consequences of COVID-19.
The countries have given a high priority to vaccinate their populations with Bhutan leading in the South Asian region with over 60.3 per cent of their population fully vaccinated followed by Maldives with 49.5 percent of 28 th July 2021. And, 8.7 percent of Sri Lankan population has been fully vaccinated with the same timeline.
In addition to COVID-19 responses, UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia continues to provide all countries in South Asia with required technical support for emergency preparedness and response and facilitate coordination among countries and other regions related to cross-border humanitarian issues.
Situation in Numbers
5,000,000 children require safe learning environments
1,000, 0000 Children require safe drinking water and sanitation services
1,000,000 children under 5 years are malnourished
500,000 people need access to health services
Regional Funding Overview & Partnerships
Given the increase in demand of humanitarian assistance largely due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in South Asia, a revision of Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC), focused on Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to all country offices, is underway.
As per the original funding needs of the HAC, approximately US$ 18.4 million is required to sustain provision of life-saving health and nutrition services for women and children; promotion of safe behaviour through mass and community level mobilisation, including hand hygiene promotion; alternate education and/or return to school; provision of child protection; and data gathering and analysis of the impact of COVID-19. The HAC appeal further covers natural disaster response for Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all public and private donors for the contributions received and continues to rely on their generous support to cover the overall funding gap of 87 per cent, amounting to more than US$ 16 million at the end of July, 2021.
Regional Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The deadly surge of COVID-19 cases caused a dire situation across South Asian countries, triggering humanitarian, socio-economic and human/child rights crises in the first half of year 2021. The speed and scale of the infection has pushed the health systems in Sri Lanka and Maldives to the brink while Bhutan also faced devasting consequences. There was a total of 383,708 confirmed cases with 4,546 deaths in all three countries by 29 July 2021. In Sri Lanka, the third wave resulted in a much higher case fatality rate (CFR) of 1.51, as opposed to the CFR of 0.64 in the second wave.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the socio-economic development of all three countries heavily impacting tourism, the industries requiring import of materials and labour, revenue generation and employment, health, education, and protection sectors affecting the wellbeing of families, and reinforcing the divides on social inequalities.
School closures have one of the most disruptive impacts on children’s lives with consequences that could lead to negative educational outcomes. As a result of COVID-19 related restrictions, the schools’ closure disrupted education largely in Sri Lanka and Maldives while schools in Bhutan were interrupted from time to time. Besides the educational challenges, there are significant impacts on children’s individual and social wellbeing and their mental health, that increase the risk for children of experiencing violence at home, child labour and child marriage among other types of risky situations. The deterioration of the protection environment exposed children to family separation, increased risks of gender-based violence, abuse, and neglect in all three countries.