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Press Release 97/48


Rome, October 16 - With the numbers of natural and man-made disasters and emergencies accelerating year by year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emphasized today the need for speedy intervention and allocation of emergency assistance for investing in early recovery and rehabilitation after an emergency.

The FAO views were outlined in a new booklet, Emergencies, The International Response and FAO, published today to coincide with World Food Day. In a foreword, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf says: "Our philosophy is that disaster victims are best served by help that gets them back quickly to their homes and their fields. Our experience allows us to tailor rehabilitation programmes to the particular conditions and needs of affected farm families, ensuring that the seeds they sow will sprout and that the crops they harvest will meet their nutritional and cultural requirements."

FAO, as described in the booklet, is involved in all eight stages of the emergency preparedness and response sequence: prevention, preparedness, early warning, impact and needs assessment, relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and sustainable recovery. The publication states that speedy intervention to promote early recovery in emergencies is cost-effective in reducing the financial burden of relief efforts to the international community.

Dr Diouf says in his foreword: "FAO regards humanitarian assistance as an integral part of its mandate to help raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, particularly in the rural areas of the developing world." He adds: "The world may never be free from disaster. But we can improve our ability to prepare, respond and rebuild. This booklet aims to show how a streamlined and more focused FAO is playing an active role in that process."

Many of FAO's field programmes contribute to reducing the vulnerability of agricultural communities to disaster, for example through better water control, use of higher-yielding and drought-resistant crop varieties, diversification of crops and livestock and improved control of pests and diseases, according to the publication.

It also explains the work of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture (GIEWS), which provides policy-makers and analysts with up-to-date information on crop prospects and early warning of impending food crises. In the same context, it describes the Emergency System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), which has been playing a leading role in the battle against scourges such as Rinderpest, African Swine Fever and the Desert Locust.

FAO's work in the assessment of the needs of disaster victims, often through joint missions with the World Food Programme (WFP), are noted in the publication, as well as the work of the Special Relief Operations Service, which helps get farmers back to their land and producing food as soon as possible by supplying basic essentials such as seeds, fertilizer and implements, fishing gear and veterinary supplies.

In the rehabilitation and reconstruction phases, FAO helps governments draw up recovery plans, and also supplies experts to help get irrigation systems going again, repair dams, rebuild fertilizer factories and restore seed multiplication capacity, rebuild herds, repair environmental damage and replant trees.

The final phase, after the emergency is over, is that of sustainable recovery, when FAO helps affected communities to work out ways of strengthening their resilience to future disasters. FAO collaborates with other international organizations involved in emergencies, both governmental and non-governmental, and the publication gives examples of operations it has carried out in a variety of countries in the recent past in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Near East and the Pacific.





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