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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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12 June 2017

High-Level Event on Fighting Famine World Food Programme Executive Board

Closing Remarks

Let me start by thanking the WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, for organizing this event, and also for his determination in maintaining the highest visibility of the current famine situation in the world

David and I joined forces to fight hunger from the very beginning of his mandate as head of the World Food Programme.

In less than 3 months, we have met several times, co-organized events, travelled together to South Sudan, and just last week we discussed these humanitarian crises with American authorities in Washington DC. 

And this effort within the UN System is not limited to only FAO and WFP.

IFAD is an invaluable partner, as well as other UN agencies. You just heard Tony Lake in the video.

Let me add that us three, David, Gilbert, and myself, have established friendly partnership and efficient ways of communication. We are making good progress to work together.

Thanks to the combined efforts of international humanitarian actors, as well as the generous contributions from the international community, we have made some good progress. Not enough yet but progress.

For example, the spread of Famine is being contained in South Sudan. We all hope that the new assessment will show this improved situation, especially in the areas where famine was declared. 

And famine has been averted so far also in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, although the food insecurity situation is still classified as severe.

We hope that the start of the rainy season will help to improve the situation and overcome the drought so that only the conflict will remain as the risk factor.

But millions of people remain affected.

In South Sudan, more than half the population is still severely food insecure.

In Somalia, we have seen a 67 percent increase in the number of people in IPC Phase 4, which is the last step before reaching famine.

So we must redouble our efforts, and for that we need more funding.

We cannot miss this planting season, otherwise the situation will be worse next year. Tony Lake just said that we cannot stop the drought, and let me add that we can stop it from resulting in a famine, if we have the proper funding.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Peace is the most fundamental element to putting an end to these humanitarian crises.

But we cannot wait for peace before we start taking action.

Even In conflict situations, there is much we can do to fight hunger, to save lives and give hope to affected people that a better future is possible.

Saving livelihoods means saving lives.

Building resilience, including through social protection, is both efficient and effective.

This means cash transfers, seed rations, support for the vegetable production, as well as livestock treatment and vaccination.

This also means rebuilding or constructing agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation, around the Lake Chad for example.

In areas of protracted crises, if you don't give seeds and fertilizers to the farmers, they will remain in refugee camps.

The same happens with the pastoralists, if we don’t restock their herds.

We have to invest in local food production, and give these people the conditions for them to live on their own, for them to get back to their normal work, to do what they know.

They need to grow food, use fish stocks in a sustainable way and milk their animals.

In our joint visit to South Sudan, David and I met people who had fled violence, and were surviving thanks to WFP food drops and FAO’s fishing and vegetable kits.

This is a clear example of complementarity between the work of the two agencies.

Let me give you a concrete example that impressed us: we came to a very flat and marshy area in the south of South Sudan.

Many people live there on an island as they feel protected from the militias. Maybe 2 or 3 times the surface of this room with some 500 people, one palm tree and some plastic tents.

WFP manage to drop food from time to time, and FAO provides some kits for fishing, some hooks and lines.

A fisherman told me that he managed to fish some 400kg of fish the previous month.

Even if we discard the usual exaggeration that fishermen like to tell, and cut it by half, it would be about 7kg of fish per day. This is more than enough to feed a family per week, and also trade the surplus with neighbors.  

So I am telling this story just as an example of how important it is to save lives by saving livelihoods, and investing in local food production with the means we have available there.

In all areas, about one third of the food is produced locally.

And in terms of costs and benefits, for example, a fishing kit (includes hooks and net equipment) costs USD 70 per household. And it has the potential to generate 3.000kg of fresh fish in 6 months, the equivalent of USD 800. More than 10 times the investment in six months.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO is absolutely committed to working side by side with WFP, IFAD and other partners to build a more prosperous future for the poorest people. And for a hunger free world.

For that, we also need to focus more on an integration process among the 3 Rome-Based Agencies.

I am not only talking about the work in the field, where we do very good work together, but also about operational aspects here at headquarters.

The 3 agencies could have, for instance, the same security system, could use the same travel agency, and also adopt the same technological platform.

This would help us work better together, and probably lower costs for all 3 agencies.

I hope countries will move forward with the organization of the first meeting of the boards of the 3 agencies, which we expect to hold in September.

It would be fundamental for the 3 agencies to better integrate their work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While we give much needed attention to these four crises, let us not forget that they are not the only ones.

We are increasingly concerned about the deteriorating food security in Chad.

The country is facing the effects of falling oil prices, conflict along its borders and increasing refugee movements. 

As David just mentioned, FAO and WFP have developed a proposal for the Lake Chad Basin countries to submit to the World Bank. I hope this request can be heard, and we count on your support for that.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the spread of violence is raising serious concerns of a rapid deterioration in food security. The same is happening in Central African Republic. We risk to see more “Boko Harams” around.

In Ethiopia, the regional drought is severely affecting herders.

In all these situations, the vast majority of affected people depend largely on rural activities. And our work together has proven essential.

Allow me to conclude by thanking David once again for inviting me to this meeting today.

I am proud that FAO and WFP have been able to work together in a very effective way, as we seek to address these urgent crises.

Thank you very much for your attention.