FAO Helping the Hungry in Crisis Situations: FAO's Emergency Programme

Event objective

Provide an overview of the Food and Agriculture Organization's role in emergencies and post crisis situations.


Today - FAO and Emergencies

Over the years, FAO has significantly stepped up the scale of its emergency assistance. The value of FAO's emergency relief activities rose from US$21 million in 1998 to US$54 million in 2001. In addition, FAO implements the agricultural component of the Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq, which rose from US$67 million in 1998 to US$124 million in 2001.

To strengthen the Organization's capacity to respond to emergencies worldwide, FAO's Governing Bodies approved in November 2001 the establishment of the Division for Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation (TCE) in the Technical Cooperation Department, which became effective in March 2002.

FAO's two largest emergency and early rehabilitation programmes today are the agricultural component of the Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq and the Agricultural Relief and Rehabilitation Programme in Afghanistan. The Organization is also continuously involved in the provision of agricultural relief to assist disaster-affected households around the globe resume their food production capacity.

The Organization is currently implementing 210 emergency projects in over 65 countries or regions. It is providing agricultural emergency assistance to vulnerable farmers in Angola, returnee farmers in Indonesia and in newly accessible areas in Sierra Leone, ex-combatants and rural poor in the Philippines and Tajikistan, small-scale subsistence fisherfolks in Sudan, flood-affected households in Cambodia, Ecuador and Viet Nam, drought-affected families in Nicaragua and Sri Lanka, to mention just a few.

Other emergency response activities include for example support to the re-integration into the agricultural sector of women and youth in the Republic of Congo, coordination of early rehabilitation agricultural activities in The Former Yugoslav

Republic of Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well as the establishment and management of Food Security Monitoring Units in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Presently, FAO has Emergency Agriculture Coordination Units in over fifteen countries or regions, including Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Eritrea, Great Lakes Region, Indonesia, Iraq, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tajikistan, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and recently, in Zimbabwe.

In addition, FAO closely monitors the situation and needs in new disaster-stricken areas, such as in Southern Africa, and intervenes quickly as soon as funding is available.

Scope of interventions and Partnerships

In the last decade, the frequency and severity of droughts, floods, storms and other natural disasters have increased. So has the level of destruction and human suffering caused by civil strife. The impact of disasters on the living standards and livelihoods of the population of disaster affected countries has thus seen a significant upward trend. FAO's response to natural disasters and human-induced emergencies has increased to address these threats to rural populations' livelihoods.

FAO's emergency relief activities include the delivery of seeds, tools, fertilizer and fishing gear where needed and assistance to the livestock sector when appropriate, in order to assist farmers to resume their food production.

In more protracted emergency situations, whenever circumstances permit, FAO provides a more rehabilitation oriented assistance, such as assisting farmers with seed multiplication, rehabilitation of irrigation structures, restocking of farm animals, and vegetable production for local markets. Activities also include helping blacksmiths restart local tool production.

In the case of protracted emergency situations or particularly vast natural catastrophes, and situations needing interventions in various sectors (livestock, crops, water resources, etc.), FAO establishes an emergency coordination unit in the affected country in order to assist national and local authorities coordinate the agriculture-related emergency assistance. The unit serves as a focal point for all emergency agricultural assistance, provides technical advice to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in agricultural relief programmes, and coordinates the assistance to avoid gaps and to reduce overlapping. Furthermore, FAO's coordination units enhance the capacity of the governments of disaster affected countries to manage these relief programmes and to quickly move beyond the emergency phase towards recovery and rehabilitation.

Humanitarian assistance requires the collaborative effort of the entire United Nations System and other international organizations as well as NGOs. Thus, FAO collaborates very closely and actively with actors involved in emergency and humanitarian activities, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP). In addition, beyond the immediate United Nations family, FAO has strong partnerships with the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), as well as the Red Cross and NGOs.

FAO's main focus in emergencies is on restoring livelihoods through the re-establishment of food production and agricultural activities, reflecting the Organization's specialization and responsibility within the United Nations family. Thanks to its technical expertise, FAO offers a holistic approach to humanitarian assistance by facilitating the transition from emergency relief to longer-term rehabilitation and development. The Organization 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.

From Special Relief Operations Service to a Division encompassing rehabilitation

The official transformation of FAO's Service for Special Relief Operations (TCOR) into the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) became effective as of 1 March 2002 in accordance with the decision taken by the FAO Conference in November 2001.

The new Division has been given the overall responsibility for the emergency field programme, for the linkage between emergency and rehabilitation activities and for the humanitarian policies of FAO. The Division will carry out these responsibilities in close collaboration and coordination with other units and divisions in FAO.

The Division is composed of two Services and a Unit as follows:

The Emergency Operations Service (TCEO) is responsible for initiating the assessment of needs for agricultural relief and rehabilitation arising from natural or human-induced disasters. Based on these assessed needs, the Service will take the lead in the formulation and implementation of programmes and projects for urgent agricultural relief and early rehabilitation.

The Special Emergency Programmes Service (TCES) is responsible for the effective implementation of special emergency programmes. These are programmes that require particular attention due to the political and security context surrounding the interventions and the complexity of the institutional set-up. TCES is responsible for FAO's intervention in the framework of the Oil-for-Food Programme in Iraq and FAO's future emergency and early rehabilitation activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Rehabilitation and Humanitarian Policies Unit (TCER) is responsible for making recommendations regarding disaster preparedness, post-emergency and rehabilitation initiatives. The Unit coordinates FAO's position on humanitarian policies and ensures that FAO addresses the gap between emergency assistance and development. The Unit maintains liaison with relevant UN entities dealing with humanitarian matters. In addition, TCER supports the programming, planning, budgeting and reporting activities of the Division and ensures adequate and timely external communication flows.



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FAO, 2002