Country Offices: Middle East and Central Asia


Afghanistan


Key Facts
  • Afghanistan is ranked 155 out of 169 on the Human Development Index.
  • The population is 29.1 million.
  • A total of 7.4 million people are considered food insecure.
  • Nearly 320,000 Afghans are internally displaced. This figure is projected to rise to 440,000 in 2011.
  • Effective civil-military coordination is required on humanitarian issues: about 150,000 NATO-led forces support 300,000 Afghan security forces.
  • The 2010 CAP requested $773 million, of which $504 million (65 per cent) was received.

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In Afghanistan’s complex and dangerous environment, opinions and priorities are changing. Insecurity and armed conflict, poor roads and natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes and severe winters, hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance and weaken the protection of civilians.

Member States that are part of the military coalition are increasing their understanding of humanitarian priorities, and donors’ interest in humanitarian donor coordination is increasing. OCHA initiated, facilitates and is the secretariat of a Technical Donor Coordination Mechanism in Afghanistan that meets every month.

OCHA is now answering the urgent call of donors and United Nations agencies to become more robust, and to increase its leadership on advocacy, funding and access negotiations. A significant management and operational review has identified three key priorities:

  • Improve OCHA’s field cluster coordination.
  • Improve the quantity and quality of information management products related to cluster priorities.
  • Enhance humanitarian access, and construct pragmatic relations with the International Security Assistance Force and opposition forces.

Afghanistan hosts a diverse range of humanitarian and development actors. Recognizing this diversity, OCHA will concentrate on providing coordinated action through a renewed commitment to cluster application, a common approach to rapid assessment and response, and a collective approach to CAP resource mobilization. These actions are expected to enable the humanitarian community to reach more people in need when coupled with safe humanitarian access. To ensure such access, advocacy among humanitarian, development and political actors is crucial, as is negotiating humanitarian access with relevant parties.

In 2011, staffing will be a key priority. OCHA aims to be fully staffed with individuals who are skilled in high-insecurity environments and negotiation techniques, and who can proactively handle their responsibilities in such a challenging and volatile setting. Another priority includes having fully functioning OCHA offices throughout the country and proper accommodation for field staff.

Iraq


Key Facts
  • Iraq is one of several countries not ranked in the Human Development Index.
  • The population is estimated at 31.4 million.
  • The under-five mortality rate is 41 per 1,000 live births.
  • The 2010 Iraq Humanitarian Action Plan requested $187 million, of which $60 million (32 per cent) has been received.

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The security situation in Iraq in 2010 is characterized by unacceptably high levels of violence and civilian casualties. Despite this, Iraqis continue their business relatively normally and can travel throughout the country.

The United Nations presence in Iraq comprises 16 agencies, programmes and funds working in 18 governorates. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq contains the Office of Development and Humanitarian Support (ODHS), which is mandated to facilitate coordination with the Government and coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The main focus of OCHA has been on providing
support to the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) and the Humanitarian Country Team, and improving coordination at the governorate level involving United Nations agencies, international and national NGOs and Government ministries. It has also managed the Expanded Response Fund, which allocated nearly $12 million in 2010.

When preparing the Mid-Year Review of the Iraq
Humanitarian Action Plan, OCHA and the humanitarian community agreed that the situation in Iraq could not be characterized as a humanitarian crisis. This is despite the pockets of humanitarian need. The emphasis is therefore on transitioning to development and the effective delivery of the United Nations Development Assessment Framework 2011-2014. The challenge is to ensure that remaining humanitarian needs are not forgotten, and that coordination mechanisms during the transition remain flexible to allow ad hoc groups to be formed to address any emerging humanitarian issue.

In March 2011, OCHA will close its office in Amman and concentrate its efforts on establishing a Humanitarian Support Unit (HSU) with offices in Baghdad and Erbil. The HSU will work with ODHS to ensure continued coordination. OCHA will also focus on providing information management support through strong collaboration with the Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, which facilitates appropriate data collection methods, sampling, analysis and mapping for the humanitarian community.

In 2011, the HSU will also report on and advocate humanitarian needs and responses in support of the HC, and be ready to mobilize resources should there be a rapid-onset natural disaster or localized incidents of civil unrest leading to humanitarian need.

occupied Palestinian territory


Key Facts
  • The occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is not ranked on the Human Development Index.
  • The population is 4.4 million, which includes 1.7 million refugees.
  • An estimated 80 per cent of the population in Gaza receives humanitarian assistance.
  • Approximately 500 checkpoints and roadblocks, along with the barrier, hinder the movement of Palestinian civilians and relief workers within the West Bank.
  • The 2010 CAP requested $603 million, of which $309 million (51 per cent) was received.

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Key features of the Israeli occupation, including sweeping access restrictions and lack of civilian protection, continue to create a forced dependence on international assistance and intervention. Increasing restrictions imposed by Israel since the early 1990s have reduced the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza. This culminated in a blockade that has been ongoing since June 2007.

The humanitarian community’s extensive accomplishments, together with recent economic progress, have provided some measure of relief to Palestinians. However, in the absence of significant structural changes to the prevalent environment or an end to the Israeli occupation, entrenched vulnerability remains a reality throughout oPt. At the end of 2010, the situation was characterized by ongoing political stalemate, regular exposure to violence, continuing restrictions on access and movement, and persistent human rights
violations.

The situation in the Gaza Strip in particular presents severe impediments to humanitarian operations. Severe import restrictions imposed since June 2007 have either prevented the implementation of planned humanitarian projects or resulted in significant delays. Additionally, the “no contact” policy of some donors, which prohibits contact with the Hamas authorities, is narrowing the operational space of many organizations. In the West Bank, humanitarian organizations face ongoing restrictions regarding access to and from East Jerusalem and other areas isolated by the barrier. They also face restrictions in their ability to construct in Area C (60 per cent of the West Bank) due to the restrictive planning regime applied by Israel.

Throughout 2010, OCHA provided focused and coordinated advocacy in support of timely and effective humanitarian action. It supports multiple coordination mechanisms, including the Humanitarian Country Team, inter-cluster coordination, a donor group and an access team. OCHA also played a leading role in promoting better integration within the United Nations system during the Integrated Strategic Framework process. However, the quality of respective clusters remains uneven in oPt. The inter-cluster coordination forum has yet to fully evolve into the strategic tool envisioned by OCHA and its counterparts.

In 2011, OCHA will continue to support and strengthen existing coordination mechanisms. In particular, it will work with clusters to ensure greater cohesion by improving area-based planning at the field level. Special focus will be placed on inter-cluster analysis and promoting more evidence-based planning. Access and protection coordination mechanisms in particular will continue to require active OCHA engagement. The office will facilitate and coordinate a humanitarian negotiation strategy to advance access concerns, building on the robust access-monitoring system established over the past several years.

OCHA will continue to lead humanitarian advocacy efforts through its public reports, inter-agency initiatives and bilateral interventions. Regarding donor partnerships, OCHA will continue to promote the coordination of planning cycles and joint needs assessments. Efforts will be made to reach out to non-traditional donors. OCHA will also strengthen coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

Pakistan


Key Facts
  • Pakistan is ranked 125 out of 169 on the Human Development Index.
  • The population is 184.7 million.
  • Over 20 million people were affected by floods in 2010, and more than 1.6 million homes were damaged or destroyed.
  • Prior to the floods, there were 2.6 million conflict-affected people in the country.
  • The Pakistan Floods Relief and Early Recovery Response Plan requested nearly $2 billion, the largest United Nations appeal on record, of which $759 million (38 per cent) has been received.

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Throughout the 2010 monsoon season, Pakistan experienced unprecedented flooding that caused a humanitarian disaster on a massive scale. Heavy rainfall created a moving body of water equal in dimension to the land mass of the United Kingdom. It affected more than 20 million people across 84 of Pakistan’s 121 districts. From the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, villages were devastated. Damage to the country’s infrastructure wiped away years of progress towards meeting development goals in education, health, poverty reduction, and mother and child health.

The massive scale of humanitarian needs posed huge coordination challenges that will persist into 2011 and beyond. The geographical scope of the flooding requires OCHA to continue to ensure decentralized coordination down to the provincial and district levels. Reliable cluster capacity, particularly at the provincial level, is expected to remain inconsistent even as many of the initial gaps have been filled.

OCHA must also coordinate the continuing needs of the pre-floods and conflict-related population of Internally Displaced Persons, many of whom were also affected by the natural disaster. This is all set against a backdrop of a fragile political environment and direct security threats to the international humanitarian community by non-state actors, resulting in movement restrictions and other access challenges.

In 2011, OCHA will focus its efforts on building and supporting inclusive relief and early-recovery coordination structures. With the large-scale ramp up of OCHA field presence following the floods, OCHA will continue to improve inter-cluster coordination and national coordination capacity by supporting key decision-making at the federal, provincial and district levels. Strategic inter-agency planning and advocacy will ensure evidence-based assistance through strengthened joint needs assessments and monitoring of key performance indicators.

OCHA will work with cluster partners to establish a prioritization process based on agreed criteria. This is particularly important in a situation where needs outstrip resources.

As OCHA works with an array of national organizations at the district level, it will promote a greater understanding of humanitarian principles, particularly regarding civil-military relations. It will reach out to national media to help raise awareness of the humanitarian community’s actions. OCHA will also establish a database and monitoring system to help track and analyse access issues. It will provide critical updates on humanitarian trends and develop advocacy messages to inform key stakeholders.

Yemen


Key Facts
  • Yemen is ranked 133 out of 169 on the Human Development Index.
  • The population is 24.2 million.
  • A total of 34 per cent of the population is without access to a safe water source.
  • Due to the Sa’ada Sixth War, Yemen has over 304,000 IDPs, 15 per cent of whom are in camps.
  • There are over 200,000 refugees in Yemen.
  • The 2010 CAP requirement was $186 million, of which $117 million (63 per cent) was received.

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Yemen represents a demanding operating environment, with refugees and civil unrest in the south, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the north-west and flooding in the west. There is negligible humanitarian access to areas not under Government control, and the presence of land mines and unexploded ordnance compound access constraints.

OCHA offers a significant comparative advantage in Yemen by bringing together United Nations agencies, NGOs, the Government and ICRC for comprehensive joint assessments and needs analysis. It supports information sharing and priority setting between agencies and the Government, and its advocacy efforts have fostered greater trust with Government partners. This advocacy has yielded tangible results, such as the Government’s request that the United Nations assist in the search for a neutral body to be engaged in landmine removal. OCHA has also supported improved access and a collective approach to settlement plans in the Sa’ada governorate.

As part of its 2011 action plan, OCHA will facilitate dialogue between agencies and the Government regarding IDP registration, and argue for greater access to the returnee areas north of Haradh. An OCHA field office will be established in Haradh to facilitate this work.

In central Yemen, OCHA will seek to deal directly with conflicting parties to ensure safe passage of humanitarian assistance. The area has been previously cut off for several months. In the south, preparedness initiatives will be
completed through contingency planning that integrates priority objectives from relevant partners. OCHA will also provide coordination for reducing vulnerability in the flood-affected region of Hodeidah.

The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) will be updated as necessary to ensure timely, adaptable and effective humanitarian action. Cluster assessments will drive the YHRP preparation and ultimately inform the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and, in turn, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework. As part of the United Nations Country Team, OCHA will be actively engaged in the CCA to prioritize the humanitarian elements of the broader Yemen country requirements. To help expedite returns, OCHA will argue for mine-action proposals within the Early Recovery Cluster in the YHRP.

OCHA’s efforts to improve access will include reaching, assessing and assisting the entire affected population, rather than limiting the scope of work to IDPs. Information tools will be reinforced with access monitoring, early warning and affected population profiles, and subsequently disseminated at the national and governorate levels.