United Nations system response

The current crisis in Japan -- triggered by the powerful earthquake of 11 March and subsequent tsunami -- is a complex emergency where the United Nations system is responding as and where requested by the Government of Japan.

Damage to nuclear power plants and the resulting risk of radiation mean that human health is now the primary focus of relief efforts.  In this, the World Health Organization in Geneva is playing an active role.  WHO assesses public health risks and provides technical consultation and assistance.  Experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency -- a U.N. agency based in Vienna -- are actively monitoring and reporting on the situation on the ground -- including injuries, radiation levels and in particular containment efforts.  The IAEA response team provides assistance and advice to governments and international organizations upon request.

FAO is prepared to respond upon request from the Government of Japan in the following areas:

  • assessing radioactive contamination of the agricultural environment, especially foods
  • providing technical advice and determining appropriate medium- and long-term measures for agriculture -- including soil, land, forests, crops, fisheries, animal health and welfare and food safety
  • facilitating international trade of foods, including agricultural produce

Together with the IAEA, FAO is equipped to field specialized teams and provide analytical services.  The two agencies maintain a Joint Division for Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.  Present activities focus on:

  • international guidance related to nuclear preparedness and response to nuclear or radiological events, including application of appropriate agricultural countermeasures
  • national regulations for sanitary and phytosanitary applications of irradiation on the basis of international standards
  • regulations on radionuclide levels in foods, and
  • good laboratory practices and analytical procedures for food contaminants and residues, including pesticides and veterinary drugs.


last updated:  Friday, November 4, 2011