Following the swift and dramatic deterioration of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, OCHA was requested to support the Resident Coordinator (RC) and the nominated lead agency, IOM. With the USG’s declaration of an OCHA Corporate Emergency on 20 September, the Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (RAOP), supplemented by other staff in neighboring countries, deployed during the next 72 hours, to support the RC in Dhaka and IOM with coordination in Cox’s Bazar. The requirement for follow-on surge staff was quickly identified and planning for the second wave of staff started immediately. With Bangladeshi visas currently limited to four weeks, close cooperation between the Surge Capacity Section (SCS), the Coordination Response Division (CRD) and ROAP was needed to make sure the second wave was in place before the departure of staff currently on the ground.
Through the Emergency Response Task Force (ERTF) and dedicated staffing conferences, CRD, ROAP and SCS formulated the follow-on personnel plan. This included two senior staff returning for three months from Special Leave Without Pay, three recruitments through the Associated Surge Pool, two staff from the Emergency Response Roster (ERR), two Standby partners, one staff from the Coordination Response Division and another from the Regional Office.
To bring people on as quickly as possible, SCS has had regular liaison with OCHA’s external partners to identify and field seconded personnel and has also been regularly following by with the Administrative Service Branch to expedite on-boarding, including reference checks, contract paperwork, medical and security clearance, visa and travel. Various challenges have been overcome, with all second wave support due to arrive in Bangladesh between 20 and 28 October, allowing hand-over with the first wave counterparts, in accordance with an agreed transition plan. Second wave surge deployments will range from three to six months, with a plan for follow up after six months already under formulation.
Agreement on a cost plan within five days of the USG’s Corporate Emergency declaration facilitated the planning and deployment process. It has also been aided by excellent collaboration across OCHA, based on understanding of responsibilities and trust.