FAO Shops For $.9 Billion To Halt Death For 32 Million People

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations is urgently in need of $940 million to enable her rescue over 32 million citizens of the world from the fangs of death.

That amount will go a long way in pushing the FAO to save the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s most food-insecure populations as the global hunger numbers have continued to rise driven by the proliferation of conflicts like those of the Boko Haram and the herders’ uprising in Nigeria, and climate-related shocks.

This year, FAO is hoping to reach over 32 million people who rely on agriculture for their survival and livelihoods through a range of interventions aimed at boosting local food production and enhancing nutrition while strengthening the communities’ resilience to crises.

FAO’s response will help to address the root causes of increased food insecurity and malnutrition, particularly of the most vulnerable populations. The planned activities include providing agricultural inputs such as seeds, tools, fertilisers and other inputs for crop farming, livestock restocking, providing animal feed and veterinary care as well training in farming best practices, new approaches to food production, and livelihood diversification strategies.

Humanitarian assistance with resilience longer-term projects also entails land and water management and conservation, improving agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers and supporting poor families with cash assistance.

Climate-related shocks, conflict, natural disasters, and outbreaks of plant pests or animal diseases continue to pose major challenges to poor farmers across the globe, disrupting their livelihoods, reducing access to income-generating opportunities, and forcing them to abandon their homes — while also putting pressure on limited resources.

In addition, prolonged drought conditions in recent years in various regions have resulted in consecutive poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Such challenges will remain a primary concern this 2019. Possible El Niño conditions climate phenomenon developing in the beginning of the year may compound the situation. El Niño hazards – usually associated with heavy rains, floods and drought -aggravate both global food insecurity and the coping capacities of vulnerable populations.

According to the Director of FAO’s Emergency and Resilience Division, Dominique Burgeon, ‘’agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of crisis‑affected populations. Therefore, it is crucial to invest in agriculture and food systems support from the onset of a crisis to save lives and enable families trapped by fighting or living in remote areas to rapidly resume local food production and earn an income.  With resource partners’ support, we hope to help restore livelihoods of millions of people, reduce their dependence on external food aid and build their resilience to withstand shocks.’’

FAO’s emergency response in 2019 will focus on assisting highly food-insecure communities in more than 30 countries. This includes Yemen – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis – where FAO aims to reach 8.6 million people with high impact interventions combining cash and agricultural livelihoods support. In Syria, 3.5 million people will benefit from restoring agricultural livelihoods and value chains.

In Somalia, this UN agency intends to assist 3.1 million people facing acute hunger with emergency livelihoods support. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, FAO aims to help 1.8 million crisis-hit populations restore their livelihoods and enhance food production.

Support will range from efforts to boost local food production and improve household nutrition, campaigns to help livestock-dependent families keep their herds healthy and alive, and natural resource and land management projects to mitigate risks of floods or erosion and build community resilience in the face of climate impacts.

A major thrust will involve cash assistance that put money into the pockets of the most vulnerable people, so they can afford to feed their families while they work to resume household food production in the aftermath of crises.

In the mean time, greater international cooperation is needed to prevent unsafe food from causing ill health and hampering progress towards sustainable development, world leaders said at today’s opening session of the First International Food Safety Conference, in Addis Ababa, organized by the African Union (AU), FAO, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

A follow-up event, the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade, which will focus on interlinkages between food safety and trade, is scheduled to be hosted by WTO in Geneva (23-24 April). The two meetings are expected to galvanize support and lead to actions in the key areas that are strategic for the future of food safety.

Food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals causes more than 600 million people to fall ill and 420 000 to die worldwide every year. Illness linked to unsafe food overloads healthcare systems and damages economies, trade and tourism. The impact of unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies around $95 billion in lost productivity each year. Because of these threats, food safety must be a paramount goal at every stage of the food chain, from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, preparation and consumption, conference participants stressed.

“The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations has been longstanding and strategic,” said African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. “This food safety conference is a demonstration of this partnership. Without safe foods, it is not possible to achieve food security,” he said.

“There is no food security without food safety,” agreed FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva during his remarks. “This conference is a great opportunity for the international community to strengthen political commitments and engage in key actions. Safeguarding our food is a shared responsibility. We must all play our part. We must work together to scale up food safety in national and international political agendas,” he said.

“Food should be a source of nourishment and enjoyment, not a cause of disease or death,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Unsafe food is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, but has not received the political attention it deserves. Ensuring people have access to safe food takes sustained investment in stronger regulations, laboratories, surveillance and monitoring. In our globalised world, food safety is everyone’s issue.”

“Food safety is a central element of public health and will be crucial in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said. “Trade is an important force to lift people out of poverty… when we reconvene in Geneva in April we will consider these issues in more depth,” he added.

Around 130 countries are participating in the two-day conference, including ministers of agriculture, health, and trade. Leading scientific experts, partner agencies and representatives of consumers, food producers, civil society organisations and the private sector are also taking part.

The aim of the conference is to identify key actions that will ensure the availability of, and access to, safe food now and in the future. This will require a strengthened commitment at the highest political level to scale up food safety in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Changing food systems 

Technological advances, digitalisation, novel foods and processing methods provide a wealth of opportunities to simultaneously enhance food safety, and improve nutrition, livelihoods and trade.  At the same time, climate change and the globalization of food production, coupled with a growing global population and increasing urbanisation, pose new challenges to food safety.  Food systems are becoming even more complex and interlinked, blurring lines of regulatory responsibility.  Solutions to these potential problems require intersectoral and concerted international action.

Strengthened collaboration

A central theme of the conference is that food safety systems need to keep pace with the way food is produced and consumed.  This requires a sustained investment and coordinated, multi-sectoral approaches for regulatory legislation, suitable laboratory capacities, and adequate disease surveillance and food monitoring programmes, all of which need to be supported by information technologies, shared information, training and education.

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