East Asia and the Pacific remains the region most prone to natural hazards worldwide, with an average of 122 million people affected yearly throughout the region. This is severely exacerbated by the negative impacts of climate change and often compounded by such human-caused hazards as conflict and civil unrest. It is estimated that annual economic losses arising from climate-related risks could reach 4.2 per cent of regional gross domestic product under the worst case climate change scenario.
UNICEF engages in a holistic disaster risk management approach to support country offices, governments and partners by strengthening emergency preparedness, building local and national capacities and providing technical expertise for child-sensitive, gender-informed and disability-inclusive humanitarian action.
UNICEF maintains an agile system to rapidly deploy funding and technical capacity from the regional and global rosters to quickly respond to sudden-onset events.
UNICEF is seeking US$29 million to respond to these critical needs in 2023, including US$25.4 million for emergency response and US$3.6 million for emergency preparedness, disaster risk reduction, climate resilience and cross-sectoral support. Twenty-four countries and territories are directly covered by this regional appeal.
East Asia and the Pacific remains the most disaster-prone region in the world. Over the past 50 years, natural hazards in Asia and the Pacific have affected 6.9 billion people and killed more than 2 million. Several countries situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire are prone to earthquakes, volcanic activity and tsunamis. In January 2022, an underwater volcano in the Pacific near Tonga erupted violently, shooting a 5 km-wide plume of ash, steam and gas into theair, affecting 84 per cent of the Tongan population, including 36,500 children.
The region is also significantly affected by the negative impacts of climate change, with the more frequent occurrence of more intense cyclones, floods and droughts. In December 2021, Super Typhoon Rai (local name Odette) swept over the Philippines, leaving 2.4 million people, including 912,000 children, in need of humanitarian assistance. The La Niña weather phenomenon, which has already caused prolonged drought in the equatorial Pacific, affecting more than 100,000 people in the Pacific Island States of Kiribati and Tuvalu, headed in 2022 into its third consecutive year, further increasing the risk of extreme weather events across the region.
In addition, protracted crises and migration due to unresolved conflict and ethnic strife in several countries in the region continue to affect the lives of children and their families and infringe upon their human rights. Disasters, conflict and migration increase the risk of different forms of gender-based violence, especially for women and girls. Girls and boys, including those with disabilities, are exposed to heightened risks of physical and emotional violence, abuse and exploitation. This is exacerbated by the socioeconomic impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which include high malnutrition levels, school dropout and rising poverty levels and are still felt in most countries in the region.
The UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office will focus on enhancing the emergency preparedness and response capabilities of country offices, government counterparts and partners by establishing adequate preparedness measures and providing technical expertise and strengthening systems for child-sensitive and child-inclusive humanitarian action, in line with the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action. UNICEF will expand its capacity-building programme for national disaster management agencies and line ministries in the region, which was successfully piloted in Viet Nam and the Philippines.
To respond rapidly to sudden-onset emergencies in the region, the East Asia and Pacific Regional Office maintains an agile system to rapidly deploy funding and technical capacity from the regional roster. This is instrumental in enabling country offices to swiftly start providing life-saving emergency support to children and their families in the areas of health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, education and cash assistance.
UNICEF will also support governments and partners to strengthen capacities for social and behavioural change, child-centred disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. To support a risk-informed programming approach, thereby contributing to the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, UNICEF will analyse multidimensional risks and threats to children; integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change strategies into development plans; and build inclusive shock-responsive social protection systems.
UNICEF will continue to strengthen cross-sectoral efforts to holistically support early childhood development in emergencies and address the needs of children with disabilities, adolescents and women and girls in humanitarian settings, focusing on gender-based violence, accountability to affected populations and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
To ensure greater predictability and accountability in humanitarian settings and learn from previous emergencies, UNICEF will continue to evaluate its humanitarian work and advance knowledge management and evidence-based humanitarian innovations.
Source: UN Children’s Fund