Regional Office for Southern Africa
Across southern Africa, millions of people are vulnerable to the triple threat of food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and a lack of basic services. The UN system works together to reduce the impact of these threats, with OCHA coordinating the humanitarian response. The triple threats are reversing southern Africa’s development gains and the region is more vulnerable to shocks. A failure of the 2004-2005 cropping season increased thenumber of people in need of humanitarian assistance to 12 million.
The Regional Office for Southern Africa (RO-SA) supports Resident Coordinators in ensuring appropriate disaster preparedness and response. The regional office is the first line of response for 14 countries in the region, with the exception of Zimbabwe. During the period under review, OCHA responded to the needs of those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in the Seychelles and Sri Lanka by providing surge capacity, as well as to two volcanic eruptions in the Comoros and floods in Madagascar.
- Provide support to the RC system to improve planning, monitoring and accountability of humanitarian actions
- Deliver efficient secretariat functions in support of UN regional inter-agency coordination efforts
- Ensure that the SAHIMS Secretariat is fully established and supports relevant humanitarian information networks
- Facilitate an inter-agency agreement on a unified approach to analysing vulnerabilities in the region
- Participate in regional disaster management capacity-building efforts in collaboration with UNDP, ISDR, SADC and other partners
- Support an inter-agency advocacy strategy for southern Africa
The Regional Office facilitated the preparation of the Inter- Agency Regional Humanitarian Strategic Framework for Southern Africa, launched in April 2005. This framework guides the current humanitarian response, identifying actions required to address immediate and longer-term needs. The response to identified emergency needs is also increasingly integrated into longer-term planning and national development plans.
The OCHA regional office continued to support the Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, preparing his mission and subsequent report, which highlighted growing humanitarian concerns, resulting in a letter from the Secretary-General to alert donors. The RO also prepared two special updates from the Special Envoy, focusing on Zimbabwe and the looming food crisis. The RO continues to lead discussions on humanitarian issues at the monthly Regional Directors Team meetings, aligning the humanitarian agenda with longer term planning.
The regional office supported RCs throughout the region, with regular missions and the deployment of humanitarian affairs officers to Malawi, Madagascar and Namibia. The office helped mobilise international capacity and technical expertise, address humanitarian needs and issued situation reports. The RO supported three RC offices in the region with personnel to boost their disaster management capacity. In Angola, the RO helped strengthen disaster response preparedness and vulnerability assessment. In Malawi, the office helped prepare the Flash Appeal, and assisted with monitoring and reporting on progress, as well as its revision in November 2005.
Inter-agency contingency planning was supported in Namibia, Lesotho, Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The process brought together key regional stakeholders, ensuring that participants were informed of the status of preparedness in their respective countries and consolidated a comprehensive picture of the support expected. The RO also developed a regional matrix that strengthened linkages between early warning and early action in the region, contributing to an IASC Early Warning-Early Action report.
Food insecurity plunged Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe back into an acute phase of crisis. The regional office helped develop response strategies, and facilitated the Malawi Flash Appeal. It facilitated the deployment of humanitarian affairs officers to Namibia, Madagascar and Malawi, and deployed support missions to strengthen information management in Zimbabwe.
After Mount Karthala volcano in the Comoros erupted twice, in April and again in November, the response was in line with the contingency plan that the regional office had helped to prepare. OCHA also helped mobilize resources to respond to immediate needs. In Madagascar, OCHA coordinated a response to floods, insect infestation and drought, which had exacerbated food insecurity.
The Southern Africa Humanitarian Information Management Network (SAHIMS) broadened its information management services to include the entire response to the triple threat. The service provided includes a website (www.sahims.net), training and capacity building, and functioning as a resource base for implementation of DevInfo in Southern Africa. SAHIMS worked with regional stakeholders to harmonise information systems and to develop a common approach to monitoring and enhancing information management capacities at national level; UN regional strategic information requirements, including those to address sustainable development needs; and attainment of MDGs.
As co-chair of the Inter-agency working group, the regional office developed a communication strategy to address the triple threat. The RO helped mobilise more than US$ 51 million in emergency funds for the region in response to humanitarian needs in Angola, Comoros, Malawi, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. The office also produced an Emergency Tools and Services booklet for RCs and promoted the IASC guidelines on HIV/AIDS. The effort fostered understanding of the pandemic in the workplace and in promoting protection-oriented activities.
During the first two months of 2005, two international staff were deployed to Sri Lanka to assist with the initial response to the Indian Ocean tsunami. The regional office also participated in discussions on the establishment of a tsunami early warning and mitigation system for the Indian Ocean.
SAHIMS played a central role in providing strategic information to support the UN’s regional capacity and RCs in achieving common analysis, supporting joint programming addressing critical vulnerabilities and response to emergencies.Website hits increased in 2005, making SAHIMS one of the most popular humanitarian and disaster response sites in Africa. Thirteen new partners joined Sahims.net. However, no new national platforms were established. Though important, national ownership of these platforms is not sustainable at present.
OCHA supported the formulation of a five-year programme on Strengthening Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis in the SADC region, as well as planning annual vulnerability assessments. This contributed to understanding of the prevailing humanitarian needs and critical areas of vulnerability, and ensured the use of appropriate methodologies.
In 2005, the office intended to coordinate its disaster preparedness activities with the UNDP/BCPR regional disaster risk reduction initiative. However, since the BCPR project did not begin until mid-2005, parallel activities were created in some countries. Coordination will continue in 2006.