Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia

Key Facts
  • From 2000 to 2009, 422 natural disasters occurred in the region, killing over 120,000 people and affecting around 70 million people.
  • Due to the colossal flooding in Pakistan, the number of people affected by disasters in the region is expected to rise significantly in 2010.
  • The region hosts nearly 4.5 million Internally Displaced Persons. It is home to the world’s three largest refugee populations: 4.7 million from the occupied Palestinian territory, 2.8 million from Afghanistan and 1.5 million from Iraq.


The Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ROMENACA) covers 28 countries and territories. These range from resource-rich to middle-income countries with a medium response capacity, to low-income countries that either need, or are at high risk of needing, international humanitarian assistance.

The region is suffering from the severe humanitarian consequences of global trends such as climate change, the financial crisis, food insecurity and rapid urbanization. It has some of the world’s most intractable and longest-running conflicts, and is affected by recurrent natural disasters. Countries throughout the region remain highly vulnerable to intensified humanitarian crises that combine elements of social unrest, political instability and chronic under-development. Sudden-onset emergencies frequently emerge against a backdrop of high vulnerability.

ROMENACA provides rapid-response capacity at short notice. The main office in Cairo and the Sub-Regional Office in Almaty (see box) maintain a pool of staff who can deploy within 24 hours of the onset of a new emergency. In 2010, ROMENACA staff members were the first to be deployed to acute crises in Yemen and Kyrgyzstan.

OCHA is strengthening partnerships with an array of regional bodies including the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Conference and, in Central Asia, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which consists of 56 states from Europe, Central Asia and America. The regional United Nations Development Group is an important forum that assists OCHA in promoting contingency planning and preparedness at country level.

OCHA has a comparative advantage in identifying preparedness gaps in the region. It provides response preparedness services to Resident Coordinators and monitors situations of concern in countries prone to natural hazards, such as earthquakes, floods and droughts. Early-warning methods, tools and analysis are made available to humanitarian stakeholders.

In 2011, OCHA will continue to work towards realizing the organization’s strategic goals in the region. It will do this through sustained partnership-building, public and private advocacy, the provision of technical support services, and support to governments and United Nations Country Teams. The office will also maintain its capacity to react to and support humanitarian response with a pool of multi-skilled and multilingual staff.

Sub-Regional Office for Central Asia

The Sub-Regional Office (SRO) for Central Asia in Almaty reinforces the response capacity of local disaster-management mechanisms in a region that consistently experiences small- to medium-scale disasters.

In 2010, OCHA supported the establishment of an inter-governmental centre for disaster response. After nearly two years of negotiations, funding was secured when the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan adopted a framework regulating the centre’s legal status. OCHA will continue collaborating with the centre on issues such as risk assessment, contingency planning and cross-border emergency response.

The SRO in Almaty will work to strengthen local capacity and maximize partnerships with regional entities. Member States from the Commonwealth of Independent States are increasingly playing a role in international humanitarian response in the region, as are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and development banks.

Following ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, the office facilitated humanitarian coordination in the country and in neighbouring Uzbekistan. It will remain responsible for humanitarian coordination needs in Kyrgyzstan, including facilitating transition planning and phasing down operations in 2011.