Part III Coordination Activities in the Field
On the ground, OCHA staff provided humanitarian coordination support to the activities of UN Agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross movement and other members of the humanitarian community. In doing so, OCHA also worked in close collaboration with governments and their agencies. At the end of the year, OCHA had a presence in 35 countries and six Regional Offices, in Bangkok, Dakar, Dubai, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Panama. Regional Disaster Response Advisors are located in those offices as well as in Kobe and Suva, covering Asia and the Pacific respectively.
In 2005, OCHA faced increased challenges responding to both natural disasters and complex emergencies. Following the Indian Ocean tsunami, OCHA deployed more than 100 staff members to the region, opened new offices in Sri Lanka and Thailand, and dramatically expanded its Indonesia office. Throughout the year, OCHA facilitated immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance and collaborated with partners working towards recovery and reconstruction.
On 8 October, the South Asia earthquake struck Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. OCHA focused its response on Pakistan, where some 75,000 people were killed and approximately three million were affected. An UNDAC team was deployed immediately and, by year-end, OCHA had established five sub-offices and deployed 26 staff. OCHA also supported the implementation of the cluster approach in Pakistan, the first time of application in a natural disaster setting.
The response to ongoing complex emergencies was also expanded, notably in Sudan, where OCHA’s presence grew from 26 to 55 international staff, particularly in support of operations in Darfur, and IDP and refugee returns in the south. In DRC, OCHA coordinated the development of the US$ 681 million 2006 Action Plan, drawing on an extensive needs assessment survey and intensive consultations.
The deepening vulnerability in Zimbabwe and the consequences of Operation Restore Order led OCHA to deploy three staff members to bolster humanitarian coordination. It subsequently opened a fully-fledged office in January 2006. In response to the food security crisis in Niger, OCHA deployed a coordination team to support the HC, and established a HIC to improve information analysis and dissemination. Several OCHA offices, such as Nepal, expanded as humanitarian crises arose or evolved.
OCHA’s revised field budget requirements (excluding the tsunami, dealt with separately in Parts I and IV) rose from US$ 61.6 million in 2004 to US$ 79.6 million in 2005 due to these growing needs. Income rose to US$ 62.8 million, up from US$ 53.5 million in 2004.
During 2005, OCHA also continued its efforts to ensure a smooth handover to transitional and development actors where possible. In Angola, the Transitional Coordination Unit was transformed over time into the Resident Coordinator’s Unit, and OCHA ended its presence. The Maldives office was closed, as development actors increased their role following the tsunami.
While the tsunami, South Asia earthquake and Darfur captured most public attention, OCHA also worked hard to highlight neglected emergencies, such as in the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Haiti, where funding fell short of needs.
OCHA field offices, particularly Regional Support Offices, increasingly engaged in early warning and preparedness work in 2005, contributing to strategies to mitigate and prevent crises, and to trigger early action.
OCHA recognises the importance of timely, relevant and accurate information to effective operational and strategic coordination, and its emphasis on providing improved information management support to its field offices – as well as improving internal communications systems – continued. Efforts to improve information management support to field offices saw HICs established in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Niger and Pakistan, while new information management tools were developed to improve communications systems.
The scope of natural disasters and other crises severely stretched the humanitarian community in 2005, and full implementation of the Humanitarian Response Reforms will be important to increasing the system’s capacities to deal effectively with multiple large-scale crises.