East Asia and the Pacific is the most disaster-stricken region in the world.
1 In 2016, disasters affected more than 86 million people in the region, compared with 40 million people in 2015.
2 In February 2018, Papua New Guinea was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake which caused devastating landslides and widespread destruction. Some 270,000 people, including 125,000 children, are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance.
3 Population growth, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation and other factors continue to accelerate and exacerbate hazard trends. In July 2018, a dam collapsed following a typhoon and heavy rains in Lao PDR destroyed 13 villages and displaced several thousand people. Hazards associated with climate change are increasing in frequency and severity and leading to extreme weather events, drought and frequent floods/landslides. The recurrent typhoons in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Philippines, Viet Nam and the Pacific sub-region continue to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, pose new health risks and challenge the establishment and delivery of quality infrastructure and basic services. Internal armed conflicts and ethnic strife, particularly in Myanmar and the Philippines, led to the internal and cross-border displacement and mass migration of more than 1 million people, more than 55 per cent of whom are children and adolescents.
4 The tense political situation and recent United Nations sanctions have negatively impacted the well-being of children in the DPRK, who were already experiencing an acute nutritional crisis. The growth of populations and infrastructure in hazardous coastal areas, which are becoming disaster hotspots, also represents a key challenge.
Regional humanitarian strategy
UNICEF's East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office will continue to strengthen regional capacities for preparedness and humanitarian response; expand sustainable access to improved nutrition, health, water, sanitation, education and child protection services; and foster social cohesion for greater resilience. The Regional Office will support country cooperation by providing technical support to national stakeholders and strengthening systems and institutions to facilitate quality assurance and standard setting that will improve the delivery of humanitarian action for children. Regional partners and country offices will be supported to contribute to regional and national policies and systems and make these inclusive and child-sensitive. The Regional Office will also work with country offices to strengthen government capacities for child-sensitive risk assessment and planning that supports shock-resistant development interventions and longer-term approaches. Continuing contributions to the regional partnerships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the Children in a Changing Climate Coalition will support effective action for children that addresses climate change, resilience building and disaster risk reduction. Knowledge management will be strengthened through research, studies and the documentation of good practices and lessons learned to generate evidence and facilitate greater predictability and accountability in humanitarian response in the context of a changing region. The Regional Office will continue to foster innovation and build country capacities to implement emerging humanitarian response modalities, such as cash transfers in emergencies, the provision of quality health services to reduce the impact of air pollution on child health, and engagement with children, including children with disabilities and adolescents. Given the increasing government capacities for emergency response in the region, the Regional Office will work with country offices to carry out relief efforts through regional mechanisms that draw on country expertise and pool resources to provide surge support. The Regional Office will also invest in its own capacity to cover all facets of its humanitarian-development programming, in line with its child rights mandate.
Results from 2018
As of 31 July 2018, funds received have enabled effective regional support for humanitarian response and enhanced preparedness/disaster risk reduction across the region. This includes the provision of health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection and education interventions in response to the earthquakes in Papua New Guinea, the dam collapse in Lao PDR and flooding in Mongolia. With regional support, all 14 country offices have significantly strengthened their emergency preparedness capabilities through implementation of new UNICEF emergency preparedness tools, including on shock-responsive social protection and humanitarian cash transfers, particularly in Myanmar, the Philippines, Viet Nam and Cambodia. In addition, Vietnam and Timor-Leste undertook capacity building initiatives to improve risk-informed programming and DRR interventions. Additionally, an after-action review was conducted in Papua New Guinea in June to strengthen knowledge management for humanitarian action.
Papua New Guinea (PNG)
On 26 February 2018, Papua New Guinea was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, which was followed by hundreds more quakes and tremors. These caused devastating destruction across the four provinces of Hela, Southern Highlands, Western Province and Enga. More than 100 people were killed and many more injured. Some 270,000 people, including 125,000 children, were estimated to be need of immediate life-saving assistance as they lost access to clean water sources, health facilities, their homes and gardens they relied on for food.
5 The emergency situation evolved into a complex emergency, with aftershocks continuing through July 2018 causing more damages, anxiety and stress. In addition, outbreaks of violence and armed conflict in both Hela and Southern Highlands led to the declaration of a second, overlapping State of Emergency. A third State of Emergency for Public Health was declared in early July 2018 due to confirmed cases of polio for the first time in 18 years in the country.
The inter-agency strategic objectives agreed by the Disaster Management Team (DMT) for earthquake response included: (i) provision of life-saving assistance to affected populations and re-establishment of basic services; (ii) restoration of livelihoods and self-reliance; and (iii) 5 provision of safety and protection for vulnerable people, including children and women. Working through national and provincial governments, with local faith- based organizations, and in close collaboration with other UN Agencies, UNICEF adapted its original emergency response strategy to the complex emergency situation and the additional needs of women and children arising from the outbreak of violence and the health emergency declaration. The focus remains on life- saving assistance in health and nutrition, access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education, children’s access to safe learning spaces and getting back to school, providing wider forms of psychosocial support and protective information and referrals. UNICEF has expanded to more locations where needs have been assessed as critical, while being limited to deferred or remote programming through partners in some areas which are subject to serious prevalence of armed conflict.
2018 humanitarian results
Since February 2018, UNICEF's response to earthquakes in the Highlands Region has included integrated maternal and child health campaigns that have thus far reached over 27,000 children with measles and rubella vaccinations and over 23,000 children with micronutrient powder. More than 31,000 women have received tetanus vaccinations. Other services include the detection and treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition, de-worming and counseling. An integrated education and child protection campaign has brought child friendly spaces and temporary learning safe spaces to over 5,500 children and is poised to scale up in the next few months. WASH services were initially brought to displaced people and subsequently were integrated into both the health and nutrition campaigns and at schools and child friendly spaces. Thus far more than 64,000 people have been given access to safe drinking water. In close cooperation with WHO and other global polio eradication partners, UNICEF is supporting the Government to respond to the polio outbreak. UNICEF is procuring over a million oral polio vaccines, supporting micro-planning, social mobilization, and in high-risk areas, an integrated earthquake/polio response approach. Thus far, in the first of four vaccination rounds, some 306,000 children have been vaccinated.