Asia Pacific remains the world’s most disaster-prone region. More than 147 events were classified as disasters in 2011, affecting more than 176 million people in 27 countries. Ninety per cent of all deaths from natural disasters (26,600) in 2011 were in Asia. The deaths and destruction were mainly concentrated in the more industrialized countries, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand. Economic losses resulting from disasters across the region are estimated at US$274 billion.
The world’s deadliest disaster in 2011—Japan’s Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami—killed almost 20,000 people and caused $210 billion worth of damage. A joint OCHA/UNDAC team deployed to the area and provided a unique humanitarian overview of the crisis. The team advised the Government on incoming humanitarian assistance and coordinated urban search-and-rescue efforts. Rather than requesting general assistance, Japan selected the assistance it needed to support national efforts.
The Philippines suffered 33 disasters in 2011—more than any other country. Tropical Storm Sendong claimed 1,430 lives. After international assistance was requested, a Flash Appeal and CERF grant were quickly issued. The South-East Asia floods that hit Cambodia, Laos PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people and left millions homeless.
CERF allocated $55 million to emergencies in Asia in 2011. CERF grants were used to kick start life-saving interventions in Bhutan, Cambodia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, and to maintain operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). CERF also supported underfunded crises in DPRK, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The region also contributed significantly to humanitarian funding in 2011. More than $1 billion in aid was provided by 19 countries, both multilaterally and bilaterally, to 66 countries, including $579 million that went to 23 appeals. OCHA’s advocacy has been a strong contributing factor in securing funding from Member States, and its expertise has helped in the preparation of funding applications.
As new realities in the region are addressed, humanitarian response is being redefined. OCHA has reviewed the emergency tools available, focusing on their relevance and adaptability. Key elements in an effective response include financial support, information management, needs assessments and support to RCs and HCTs. But a stronger emphasis is emerging on the priorities outlined by governments, regional organizations and the populations most likely to be affected by disaster.
The requests from governments for outside assistance often represent the starting point for the international system to get involved. These requests are becoming less frequent, but each crisis requires a specific, carefully tailored response, where humanitarian actions must complement and support national efforts on the ground. The response will only be successful if it is accepted by the target population and the host Government. Humanitarian action will be most effective if there are strong, durable relationships to build on.
OCHA’s efforts to work more effectively with regional organizations and national governments in disaster preparedness are being helped by a new concept: the Country-Level Integrated Preparedness Package for Emergency Response (CLIPPER). CLIPPER aims to prepare HCTs and governments in eight critical areas of response. Piloted by OCHA in Papua New Guinea, CLIPPER should be rolled out in all of the 13 priority countries defined by the Global Focus Model. Five countries have been selected for implementation in 2012, including Viet Nam, Myanmar and Cambodia.
In October 2011, a growing regional interest in preparedness was signalled at the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Workshop in Shanghai, China. Over 100 disaster management experts from 16 countries agreed to work together over the next two years on four projects. These projects will focus on emergency response and disaster preparedness, and on securing input from Member States, humanitarian organizations and the private sector. OCHA will convene four working groups to develop these projects and oversee their implementation.
The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response provides the sub-region’s first regional disaster management framework. The SAARC countries have also taken steps to become more operational by signing the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters. OCHA has a clear role in supporting and guiding these initiatives.