2012 underlined the Caucasus and Central Asia region’s volatility in the face of natural and man-made disasters. There was a rise in recurring natural disasters across the South Caucasus and Central Asia, in particular in the region’s most vulnerable countries – Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Both countries experienced a record number of small- to medium-scale natural disasters, which often affected the same settlements several times. Other countries in the region also suffered losses from common disasters such as earthquakes, hail storms and flash floods.
Deepening food insecurity affected over 1.3 million people in Kyrgyzstan and up to 2 million in Tajikistan. There was political instability in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, civil war in Syria caused refugees to seek shelter in Armenia (6,000 ethnic Armenians), tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued, tensions over natural resource use (gas, water) between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan deepened, and there were cross-border disputes in the Fergana Valley.
In December, a cold snap in Kyrgyzstan coincided with a sizable reduction of gas supply from Kazakhstan. This short crisis revealed the vulnerability of the country’s energy situation and lack of municipal capacity to protect the most vulnerable population groups (homeless people, internal migrants, elderly and orphans).
ROCCA, with National Disaster Response Advisers (NDRA) in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, monitored and quickly responded to natural disasters (for example: earthquake in Rasht valley in Tajikistan and flash floods in Kyrgyzstan), raising awareness among key humanitarian partners of developments and OCHA’s readiness to respond.In the Caucuses region OCHA undertook missions to inform partners of OCHA’s expanded coverage and support, worked with key IM stakeholders to promote data sharing and standards, and conducted inter-agency contingency planning (IACP) and crisis communications workshops. In Central Asian countries, OCHA worked to enhance preparedness at national level, updating IACPs in all five countries, with three of them also addressing joint advocacy and communications in crises.
In Kyrgyzstan, ROCCA revamped the DRCU – a local disaster response mechanism for small- to medium-scale disasters – by ensuring buy-in from all members and securing financial support through a pooled fund. The DRCU is now the key partner for the government in emergency preparedness and response. It has also become an emergency information hub, producing weekly bulletins and monthly risk monitoring updates. Towards the end of 2012, ROCCA started a similar process aimed at reviewing and improving Tajikistan’s Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT). Through its NDRA in Tajikistan,ROCCA supports REACT missions and activities, and builds partnerships with local humanitarian partners.
Regionally, ROCCA established a Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force for common planning and implementation of disaster preparedness, response and risk reduction initiatives. The OCHA-chairedtask force developed and agreed on a terms of reference, early warning report template, and a joint work plan that was put together at the fourth Central Asia Regional Risk Assessment Conference.
OCHA also organized a regional IM workshop to promote data sharing and common data standards at the regional level. The workshop and a number of targeted IM missions resulted in improved information sharing to support common situationanalyses in emergencies. ROCCA acquired and processed official population statistics for the majority of countries in the region and finalized Common Operational Data sets for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Reference and elevation maps for all countries in the region were produced, and district maps for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were finalized.