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Regional Office for Central and Eastern Africa (ROCEA)

Highlights

  • An integrated approach on disaster preparedness involving United Nations, Government, Red Cross and NGO partners was adopted, using improved inter-agency contingency planning and emergency simulations. Priority countries included Tanzania, Djibouti and Burundi.
  • OCHA collaborated with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in organizing a conference aimed at improving IDPs’ rights and status.
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Hopes of stability and growth in the Central and East African region continue to be undermined by a series of complex emergencies, sometimes interrelated, fuelled by political instability, ongoing battles for resources and cross-border conflicts. Recurrent droughts, floods and sharp rises in fuel and food prices have dramatically affected the livelihoods of already vulnerable communities.

The African Regional Office was restructured from July 2009, with Central Africa being covered from Dakar and Eastern Africa from Johannesburg. This has left Nairobi operating as an SRO, but still with a substantial workload. There is a clear remit to prioritize critical cross-border and sub-regional humanitarian trends and sharpen the focus on disaster preparedness.

The restructure also meant redeploying a number of international and national personnel. But the RO showed considerable flexibility, ensuring that core activities were maintained and support to target countries was unaffected. With a refocus on the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions, the Regional Humanitarian Partnership Team (RHPT), comprising regional IASC agencies, reaffirmed its commitment to both regions, while the Nairobi SRO can work closer with the countries covered.

According to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), more than $3.3 billion out of $5.2 billion required had been allocated to humanitarian response in Central and East Africa (CEA) at the end of October 2009, with the seven CAPs in the region 64 per cent funded. The second round of the CERF Underfunded Emergency Window was completed at the end of October, allocating $35.2 million to countries in the CEA region. Funding covered a variety of sectors, including food, child nutrition, maternal health, agriculture, water and sanitation, and drought response.

The Regional Humanitarian Partnership Team has made disaster preparedness response activities a clear priority, with an emphasis on contingency planning. OCHA worked with other United Nations agencies, governments and NGOs across the region on developing contingency plans in anticipation of the impact of El Niño on vulnerable communities. Meteorologists warned of a sharp increase in rainfall through the end of 2009 due to the recurrence of El Niño. Concerns focused particularly on flooding risks, crop destruction, the outbreak of waterborne diseases and the likely problems of humanitarian access to affected populations.

The search continued for long-term solutions to the chronic humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa, which experienced one of the most severe droughts of the past decade. The High-Level Meeting on the Horn of Africa Crisis in Nairobi in February 2009 highlighted the need for an integrated approach and the harmonization of development and humanitarian agendas. But much needs to be done to reduce the impact of climatic and political shocks in the region. As of October 2009, OCHA was reporting 23 million people in the Horn of Africa as severely affected by food insecurity and drought.

Consolidated regional reports on the Horn of Africa, displaced populations reports, funding updates and pastoralist bulletins attracted considerable media interest and the attention of foreign missions. In some cases this attention ensured better funding for emergency or rehabilitation activities, as with OCHA’s Pastoralist Voices project, which aims to bring pastoralists’ perspectives to the forefront of humanitarian planning and decision-making. Advances were noted on a common approach to needs assessment and impact evaluation, with the finalization of a second prototype dashboard and field testing in two countries.

In Burundi, OCHA supported the inter-agency contingency planning process and organized two simulations on pandemic and natural disasters.ROCEA collaborated with the ICGLR Secretariat and other partners in a three-day workshop on IDPs. Discussions focused on progress made in implementing the ICGLR’s own Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons. Workshop recommendations are to guide national and regional actors in their efforts to assist, protect and find durable solutions for the increasing number of displaced persons in the region. OCHA estimated the number of IDPs in the CEA region in October 2009 to be close to 10.2 million. IDP numbers declined in Sudan, Uganda, Chad and Kenya, but there were strong increases in DRC, CAR and Somalia. OCHA and regional partners looked to reinforce the cluster system that has been widely adopted in the CEA region since 2006.

ROCEA staff facilitated more than eight regional trainings and workshops, including with the African Stand-by Force for the Eastern Africa Sub-region, which focused on understanding OCHA’s role in humanitarian assistance and civil-military relations in peacekeeping operations.As co-chair for the Regional Inter-agency Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Task Force, OCHA participated in the monthly coordination meetings and workshops aimed at facilitating support and coordination of GBV capacity in emergency response, as well as in transition and development contexts in the region. During a two-day regional workshop, the GBV task force disseminated the IASC Guidelines for Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. The GBV Working Group has since merged with the HIV sub-group to ensure effective coordination.