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OCHA is currently present in 44 countries, including 23 field offices, two Regional Disaster Response Advisors (RDRA) and six Regional Offices (RO). Field offices provide direct support to the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the larger humanitarian community through the coordination of humanitarian action and the analysis and dissemination of information related to humanitarian crises. OCHA offices are opened in response to natural and man-made emergencies, and continue to provide services until the situation has entered the recovery phase. Clear benchmarks, such as the return and resettlement of refugees or the engagement of development actors, are used to determine when an office can be closed and coordination responsibilities handed over to other actors.

The main purpose of OCHA’s field presence is to facilitate and support the coordination of humanitarian assistance by governments, UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross Movement, through direct support to the office of the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinators. This support is designed and configured based on the scale of the needs, the existing capacity of the actors, and the existing coordination mechanisms. OCHA field staff develop and sustain coordination mechanisms at the capital and local level, develop and disseminate information products, coordinate needs assessments and resource mobilization activities, manage access negotiations with local actors, undertake advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable and the humanitarian community, and coordinate the implementation of humanitarian programming.

In 2006, OCHA will expand its activities in several countries. In light of the massive response efforts by the international community to the October 2005 South Asia Earthquake and its consequences, and especially considering the challenges in logistics, the OCHA presence in Pakistan will need to be continued through the emergency relief and early recovery phases. OCHA will also expand its presence in Nepal, particularly outside Katmandu, with the intention of improving the coordination of assistance and protection. In Papua New Guinea, OCHA will assist the Resident Coordinator and the UN Country Team to improve the response to natural disasters and other risk factors. The progress in the peace process and local reconciliation efforts in Somalia will allow OCHA to expand its presence inside the country in an effort to improve humanitarian access. In Zimbabwe, OCHA will expand its presence to assist the humanitarian community cope with the effects of drought, HIV/AIDS and diminished capacity for governance, and assist those displaced by “Operation Restore Order.”

Sudan will remain OCHA’s largest field office, but after two years of rapid expansion due to increasing demands in Darfur and growing IDP and refugee return in the south, the focus in 2006 will be on transition to development actors where conditions allow. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, OCHA will continue to use short-term coordination units to meet emergencies needs outside the major towns, and will also take on responsibility for managing the newly created “Good Humanitarian Donorship” Fund.

OCHA continually reviews its field presence to make sure that its coordination services are appropriate for the contexts in which it operates. In 2005, the OCHA offices in Angola, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were closed. During 2006, OCHA’s presence in Sri Lanka and Indonesia is expected to end with the handover of coordination responsibility to development partners. Several countries where OCHA has had a long-term presence have experienced improvements in the prevailing humanitarian situation as a result of successful peace processes. During 2006, OCHA will review its presences in Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Russian Federation to determine whether the improvements allow for a downsizing of OCHA’s presence.

To complement the coordination support provided by its field offices, OCHA has also developed a regional network of support offices and advisors. OCHA has six Regional Offices – three in Africa (Dakar, Johannesburg and Nairobi), one in Asia (Bangkok), one in the Middle East (Dubai) and one in Latin America (Panama). These regional offices provide support to OCHA’s field offices, monitor developments with cross-border and regional implications, and also work closely with regional organizations and countries without a permanent OCHA presence. Their main functions are information analysis and dissemination, advocacy and resource mobilization. During 2006, the three newest offices, Bangkok, Dubai and Panama, will complete their expansion so that they fully meet the needs of their respective regions.

There are currently eight Regional Disaster Response Advisors (RDRA) based in Bangkok, Dakar, Dubai, Fiji, Johannesburg, Kobe, Nairobi, and Panama. They provide technical, strategic and training expertise, assistance with contingency planning and preparedness, and advice on monitoring and responding to natural disasters. They also provide direct support to affected governments, UN Country Teams and the non-governmental community during disasters through the response and post-crisis phases.

All OCHA field offices will be better supported on security issues by the recent assignment of a full-time Assistant Security Focal Point. The position is dedicated to providing full time support to OCHA offices on security issues, including MOSS and MORSS upgrades in order to be compliant with UN security standards. In 2006, OCHA has requested US$ 3.6 million to upgrade facilities and provide training to staff throughout its offices. This is a critical investment in OCHA’s most valuable resource, its staff, and will enhance their security as they continue to serve in many of the most dangerous environments in the world. OCHA’s security goal for the coming year is to ensure full MOSS/MORSS compliance and continued close collaboration with UNDSS in taking action to improve our security posture.

OCHA also supports IRIN, the Integrated Regional Information Networks. In 2006, the humanitarian news and analysis service provided by IRIN will continue to cover sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia and will expand its reporting of the Middle East region. There are currently five IRIN regional news service offices based in Ankara, Dakar, Dubai, Johannesburg and Nairobi, which is the IRIN head office. IRIN also maintains sub-offices in Abidjan, Kabul and Islamabad. In addition to its news service and as part of its commitment to enable the humanitarian community to better understand and respond to evolving crises and disasters, IRIN also develops multi-media products, including film documentaries, news footage, quality photography, and photo-books.

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

The Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) is an independent humanitarian news service covering sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. IRIN was founded ten years ago to improve the flow of vital information to those involved in relief efforts in the Great Lakes region following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Offices have since been established in Dakar, Abidjan, Liberia, Angola, Johannesburg, Islamabad, Ankara, Kabul and Dubai. Its principal objective is to provide news and analysis that helps the humanitarian community better understand, anticipate and respond to evolving crises and emergencies. At the same time, IRIN strives to ensure that affected communities can also access neutral and reliable information so they can make better informed decisions about their future.

IRIN’s area of geographical coverage has increased steadily over the last decade; so too has the range of subjects covered and the types of services offered. The core news service is distributed free of charge to subscribers by e-mail and via the website www.irinnews.org. This is now complemented by a range of multi-media services, namely PlusNews, a specialized news service on HIV/AIDS, IRIN Radio, which helps local radio stations develop relevant content for local communities in Africa and Afghanistan, and IRIN Film, which produces short documentary films for advocacy purposes and news footage for international media. More recently, IRIN has added a professional photographer to its staff so that its reports can be complemented by visual images which are available free of charge to the humanitarian community.

IRIN has a growing worldwide readership of more than one million people. Many more receive IRIN news indirectly by picking up its reports on other websites and newspapers. Most of IRIN’s news output is in English, but a French-language version of PlusNews was launched in 2004 and a limited text service is published in French, Kiswahili and Dari (one of the major languages of Afghanistan). Plans are in place for news output in Arabic, Portuguese and Russian as well. IRIN Radio produces audio programmes with partner radio stations in English, French, Portuguese and six different local languages.

In 2005, IRIN established a Middle East service based in Dubai. This service will be expanded in 2006 and offers comprehensive reporting of humanitarian issues in the region in English and Arabic. The budget for this project – around US$ 1 million – has not been included in IRIN’s core costs. Similarly, none of the radio project and only a portion of the PlusNews service budget is reflected in the budget detailed here. Though considered important elements of IRIN’s work, additional funds for all three will have to be sought locally.

With the recognition of HIV/AIDS as a significant factor in many ongoing humanitarian crises, the PlusNews service will be gradually incorporated into the core IRIN activities in an effort to provide more stable funding.

IRIN’s documentaries have been positively received by advocacy partners and the response from broadcast media to IRIN news footage has been unprecedented. Diminishing international media coverage of crises has left an information void that IRIN continues to address by developing its own broadcast news footage capacity. With limited investment and a growing distribution system, IRIN intends to provide media networks with high quality footage of humanitarian concerns distributed directly to key networks or to 500 global broadcasters via the UNIFEED-APTN satellite service. Key media networks that have recently used footage include CNN, CBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, TV5, BBC and SABC.

In support of humanitarian advocacy, IRIN also intends to improve the quality of its free online photo library and still images collection from humanitarian crisis areas. As IRIN expands its services and geographic coverage, a Deputy Coordinator and Chief Editor will be joining the team in Nairobi to underpin the quality of its services.


  • Consolidate the existing news service to ensure continued timely, accurate and impartial reporting on humanitarian issues in the regions.
  • Produce special reports, analysis, photography and film footage focused on emerging or neglected crises and post-conflict countries.
  • Produce news footage and film documentaries to highlight specific humanitarian concerns, such as violence against women, and steadily expand the media distribution network.
  • Expand the Middle East service to ensure comprehensive coverage of the region’s humanitarian concerns in English and Arabic.
  • Improve the flow of information to those affected by conflict by continuing to produce high quality radio content with selected local radio stations.


  • Timely, accurate and impartial coverage of existing regions as reflected in feedback from the annual readership survey and throughout the year.
  • Increase in the number of special reports, analyses and film footage of emerging or neglected crises, post-conflict countries and issues of particular concern.
  • Increase in the uptake of IRIN services by media, local communities, and the humanitarian and international community for awareness raising, training and advocacy.
  • Middle East network established with bilingual coverage of humanitarian developments throughout the region.
  • Communities affected by conflict have ready access to radio content produced by IRIN and partner radio stations.
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