FAO's Emergency Activities:
The Emergency Sequence:
Overview of the Handbooks
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE EMERGENCY SEQUENCE:
WHAT FAO DOES AND HOW FAO DOES IT
FAO is responding to an increasing number of requests to assist countries affected by disasters or emergencies. Interventions in emergencies can be described in terms of a sequence of events, sometimes referred to as disaster cycle, which has distinct phases, each requiring different actions. These actions constitute FAO's emergency sequence. It consists of the following eight types of action:
Although these types of action may be distinct in nature, they do not need to be so in time and the need for some to run concurrently is now widely recognised. Development objectives should not be set aside during emergencies, but need to be maintained throughout the emergency sequence, which is often described as a relief-development continuum. Development interventions need to incorporate elements of prevention and preparedness which can reduce susceptibility to disasters. Even during severe emergencies, it may be possible to adopt an approach to relief interventions which reinforces civil society and local capacities for recovery and development. Avoiding future emergencies must be an important objective during rehabilitation and reconstruction. Given the high costs of relief, the rationale is not only to minimise the acute suffering associated with emergencies but to reduce their costs thus freeing resources for development. This prevents relapses of agricultural emergencies in the future to every possible extent.
This Technical Handbook Series on FAO's Emergency Activities explains FAO's role and the activities carried out by FAO officers, consultants and field staff in preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies, affecting the food and agricultural sectors1. Six booklets cover the above-mentioned phases, whereby rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery are dealt with in a single document. This brief overview introduces key concepts and summarises each of the booklets.
It is important to distinguish between disasters and emergencies. The United Nations Development Programme/Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Co-ordinator (UNDP/UNDRO) definitions are:
Disaster: "the occurrence of a sudden or major misfortune which disrupts the basic fabric and normal functioning of a society (or a community). An event or a series of events which give rise to casualties and/or damage or loss of property, infrastructure, essential services or means of livelihood on a scale which is beyond the normal capacity of the affected communities to cope with unaided."2
Emergency: "an extraordinary situation in which people are unable to meet their basic survival needs, or there are serious and immediate threats to human life and well-being". Events and processes which can cause disasters do not always do so, and disasters do not always result in emergencies. Thus, droughts or outbreaks of migratory pests may or may not result in widespread crop failure, a disaster which may or may not have consequences grave and immediate enough to warrant the declaration of an emergency.
Disasters and consequent emergencies may occur suddenly or develop over a period of time. Rapid-onset emergencies are usually the result of sudden natural events such as wind storms, floods, wild fires, landslides, avalanches, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Slow-onset emergencies include those resulting from crop failure due to drought, the spread of an agricultural pest or disease, or a gradually deteriorating political situation leading to conflict. Speed of onset has important consequences for action that can be taken. Prevention, preparedness and early warning measures are much less developed for sudden onset disasters.
Complex emergencies: An increasing number of emergencies are related to conflict and have come to be known as "complex emergencies". The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) defines a "complex" emergency as: "a humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is a total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires an international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing UN country programme".3 Common characteristics include:
Major emergencies: The IASC uses the term major emergency to refer to `a situation threatening the lives and wellbeing of a large number of people or a very large percentage of a population and often requiring substantial multi-sectoral assistance', which in contrast with a complex emergency normally has the following features:
Like complex emergencies, major emergencies elicit a multi-agency response under OCHA auspices which normally includes an inter-agency assessment mission followed by a Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal. Effective co-ordination with other agencies in responding to such situations is of prime importance.
FAO's remit covers emergencies which result from disasters affecting either the food or the agricultural sector, or a combination of the two. In the food sector, emergencies may arise through changes in food security, food quality or food safety which threaten the nutritional wellbeing of significant groups of the population. In the agricultural sector, the concern is with disasters which threaten agricultural production and livelihoods in such a way as to constitute emergencies. Most often, agricultural disasters which constitute emergencies do so because they are likely to lead to food emergencies through their effect on food security.
Within FAO, the Emergency Coordination Group (ECG) ensures timely, coherent and coordinated action to foster the most effective response on the part of the organisation related to all emergency phases, from disaster prevention and early warning, through impact assessment, needs identification and relief intervention, to post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery. Its tasks are outlined in director-general's bulletin No. 99/16 of 23 August 1999. According to this, the ECG will, in full consultation and with the support, as necessary, of concerned units of the Organization:
The ECG is chaired by the Assistant Director-General, Technical Co-operation Department (TC), and reports directly to the Deputy Director-General of FAO. Permanent members are the Directors of Directors, Forestry Policy and Planning Division (FON), the Investment Centre Division (TCI), Field Operations Division (TCO) and the Chiefs Animal Health Service (AGAH), Plant Protection Service (AGPP), Food Security and Agricultural Projects Analysis Service (ESAF), Nutrition Programmes Service (ESNP), Global Information and Early Warning Service (ESCG), Decentralization Service (OCDO), Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN), Policy Co-ordinating Service (TCAR) and the Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR).
A Field Programme Circular, Guidelines in Cases of Emergencies Originating from Natural or Man-made Disasters Affecting the Food and Agricultural Sectors, sent to all FAO Representatives, decentralized offices and Division Directors, sets out procedures to be followed and actions to be taken in all phases of emergencies. It defines the responsibilities, procedures and modalities which allows FAO to enhance its role in the UN/OCHA system at the field level.
In responding to emergencies, FAO co-operates closely with the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which has offices in New York, dealing with policy and diplomatic aspects of emergencies, and in Geneva, from which operational support is co-ordinated. FAO supports OCHA objectives both at country and Headquarters levels through FAO Liaison Offices in New York and Geneva. FAO has actively participated in the IASC, its Working Group, in OCHA-led missions and in Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeals. In these forums, FAO has overall responsibility for crop and food supply, (with WFP) emergency food aid needs assessment, agricultural relief and rehabilitation needs assessment and preparation of project profiles in these areas.
FAO's other partners in emergencies include: the World Food Programme (WFP); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the World Bank and the regional development banks; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The following paragraphs provide a brief overview of the content of the six booklets on FAO's emergency activities.
Prevention refers to measures designed to prevent natural or socio-political events and processes from resulting in disasters. FAO activities in this area focus on reducing vulnerability to such events in the food and agriculture sectors. Prevention is closely related to mitigation, a generic term that includes all measures taken to reduce the damage, disruption and causalities of a hazard. It's comprised of prevention, preparedness, and impact-reducing measures taken after a disaster has occurred. FAO activities in this area are designed to reduce vulnerability to hazardous events in the food and agriculture sectors. Examples include: crop and livestock diversification, plant breeding for short-cycle crops resistant to drought, diseases and pest attacks, improved range land and water management, soil conservation, improved coastal fishing practices, forest management, pest and disease control measures. These disaster prevention measures are geared towards reducing the likelihood of disasters occurring due to causal factors of different types: longer-term processes or sudden events, natural or human induced. They often form part of longer-term programmes to promote resilience and sustainability.
Preparedness refers to measures taken in advance to establish capacities and mechanisms to respond rapidly and effectively to disasters when they do occur, and thereby reduce the intensity or scale of any resultant emergency. FAO provides technical assistance for the development of disaster preparedness plans to respond to disasters of different kinds, for the establishment of institutional structures for the implementation of these plans, and for ongoing staff training. It also provides assistance for the development of information systems, including national and regional early warning and food information systems as well as food insecurity and vulnerability mapping, and for policies and management guidelines for food security reserve stocks. In designing and implementing these information systems, the involvement of a variety of development institutions which are active in at-risk areas contributes to providing quick, flexible and integrated responses to locally identified needs. These measures aim at reducing the need for costly relief when disaster strikes.
Early warning is the provision of early and relevant information on potential or actual disasters and their impacts. FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) continuously monitors the food supply and demand situation around the world, and reports to the international community through its system of regular and ad hoc reports. Early warning work carried out by GIEWS in collaboration with regional and national early warning and food information systems play a crucial role in ensuring that timely and appropriate action can be taken when an emergency arises. FAO also monitors, provides early warning on, and acts to control outbreaks of transboundary diseases and migratory pests through its EMPRES programme (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases).
Impact and needs assessment involves assessing the nature and magnitude of a disaster once it occurs. This includes its impact on affected populations, on agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry. The assessment also determines the type as well as the gravity of the emergency and the nature of immediate rehabilitation assistance that is required. There are two major types of assessments, Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAMs) and Agricultural Needs Assessment Missions. CFSAMs are carried out jointly by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) with the World Food Programme (WFP). They are responsible for identifying vulnerable groups and food aid need requirements. Agricultural Needs Assessment Missions are mounted by FAO's Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR) to determine the impact of disasters and emergency assistance requirements for the agriculture sector.
In summary, types of assessment conducted by FAO alone, by joint FAO/WFP missions or by FAO experts participating in UN-led assessment missions, may cover the impact of the disaster on:
Assessments are quickly disseminated to the international community to enable timely and effective donor responses, and are used as a basis for FAO's own relief efforts.
Relief refers to the provision of assistance to save lives in the immediate wake of a disaster. This includes search and rescue, evacuation, distribution of food and water, temporary provision of sanitation, health care and shelter, and the restoration of immediate personal security. FAO's role in this phase includes approval of WFP Emergency Operations for food assistance by the Director-General, often on the basis of an assessment made by FAO/WFP missions. FAO also provides support for control of food quality and safety.
FAO includes "agricultural relief" in its definition of relief, referring to agricultural assistance provided on an emergency basis. Such relief is aimed at rapidly reducing dependence on emergency food assistance, and providing a basis for longer-term rehabilitation. This assistance covers the provision of agricultural essential inputs such as seeds, tools, fertilisers and livestock and veterinary supplies, to enable affected populations to resume basic productive activities quickly - in time for the next agricultural season where possible.
Agricultural relief is not, however, limited to the supply of agricultural inputs. Special agricultural relief operations also include the provision of services and technical advice which are not available from other United Nations agencies or from non-governmental organizations. In its relief interventions, FAO gives specific attention to the food security constraints of at-risk households in the areas affected, as well as to the need for appropriate information allowing affected households to make informed choices regarding food acquisition, preparation and distribution in unfamiliar situations.
Rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery refer respectively to measures helping to restore the livelihoods, assets and production levels of emergency-affected communities, to re-build essential infrastructure, and to restore the means of production as well as institutions and services destroyed or made non-operational by a disaster.
FAO plays a key role in following-up immediate agricultural relief with assistance for restoring extension, veterinary, plant-protection and input supply services and institutions where these have been disrupted. It supports the physical reconstruction of agricultural infrastructure such as dams and irrigation systems, markets and crop storage facilities. FAO also provides policy and strategy support for recovery and development programmes in the food and agriculture sectors.
This assistance is geared towards limiting the need for relief and enabling development to proceed. It includes mitigation activities which help prevent and prepare for the possibility of further disasters and emergencies. Major emphasis is placed on strengthening the co-ordination of locally active emergency and development institutions and on encouraging the participation of the affected population in designing and implementing interventions to promote household food security and nutrition. Priority is given to the needs of food-insecure households and towards promoting sustainable and healthy livelihoods.
In response to requests from countries, FAO provides assistance to establishing an effective policy and institutional framework for future sector growth and development, and within this framework identifies and formulates programmes and projects for donor funding. This includes programmes to assist resettlement and reintegration of refugees, internally displaced persons and ex-combatants. FAO promotes co-ordination of development and humanitarian institutions in the planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of decentralised plans of action to promote food security and nutrition in affected areas.
1 The term "agriculture" is used throughout to include fisheries, marine produce, forestry and primary forest products.
2 UNDP/UNDRO Disaster Management Manual, May 1991.
3 IASC Xth Meeting - 9 December 1994, in FAO Field Programme Circular 2/96