The Asia and Pacific region is home to some 4.4 billion inhabitants, more than half of the world’s population. Its vast and diverse landmass allows for varied and extreme weather patterns as well as a high level of ethnic and cultural diversity, making it particularly prone to both natural hazards and conflicts.
Encompassing a broad array of high-risk zones such as river basins, flood plains, seismic fault lines and volcanic landforms, the Asian continent and the Pacific region regularly bear the brunt of recurrent floods, cyclones, droughts, landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
In the recent past, the region has been struck by some worst natural disasters worldwide, including the 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013, and the Asian tsunami of December 2004. Over the last decade, a total of half a million people in the region have lost their lives due to disasters, and over 1.4 billion have been affected. The combination of urbanisation, deforestation, climate change and higher population densities in disaster-prone areas may result in yet more frequent and intense hazards, which are likely to have an increased impact on a larger number of people in the future.
Home to a wide range of ethnic groups, cultures, religions, and languages, many countries in Asia and the Pacific have also often witnessed outbursts of communal violence and armed conflicts, leaving millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the region hosts some 3.5 million refugees and 1.9 million internally displaced persons. The main source country of refugees in the region is by far Afghanistan, followed by Myanmar/Burma.
Statelessness is also a concern in Asia and the Pacific where an estimated 1.4 million people have been denied citizenship. In Myanmar/Burma alone, more than 800 000 ethnic Rohingya people have no legal existence, are deprived of basic rights, and subsequently become victims of social and institutional marginalisation.
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has been present in Asia and the Pacific since 1994, providing more than € 2 billion in humanitarian aid funding to address urgent needs of the most vulnerable populations affected by both natural and man-made disasters. Moreover, the Commission has funded a number of disaster preparedness programmes in the region since 1996 with the aim to reduce hazard risks and build resilience amongst vulnerable groups in areas that are highly exposed to natural disasters.
In 2016, the Commission made available over € 80 million to maintain the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance across the region, including an allocation of € 11.7 million for disaster preparedness initiatives.