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East and Central Africa

East and Central Africa

Each year, the countries of Eastern and Central Africa experience the highest number of natural and human-induced disasters in all of Africa. Droughts, floods, crop and livestock diseases, civil conflicts, volatile food prices, and HIV continue to undermine livelihoods in the region. Many of these crises spill over borders – such as the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa, which affected more than 13 million people at its peak. Coordinated action and efforts to build resilience are therefore crucial in preventing and responding to these crises.

FAO’s Subregional Emergency Office for Eastern and Central Africa (REOA) plays a critical role in helping governments and rural populations to prepare for and respond to crises. Through REOA, FAO seeks to reduce and manage disaster risks in order to improve food and livelihood security in Eastern and Central Africa. REOA focuses much of its work on strengthening national and regional information and early warning systems, supporting cross-border crop and livestock disease surveillance and response, disseminating improved practices for crop and livestock production, and integrating gender and HIV issues into food and nutrition security response actions.

Early action built on early warning

Appropriate action must be based on reliable and timely information. As crises become more complex, the availability of accurate data is increasingly vital to enable decision-makers to identify, plan, prioritize and implement appropriate responses. REOA has led the roll out of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)  tool in the region. Together with CARE International, 11 countries are supported using the IPC to conduct their national analysis of food security and nutrition conditions.

In addition, the Regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group provides an important platform to work with partners at all levels and from all sectors to carry out response analysis in the aftermath of a disaster. FSNWG builds on lessons learned from the drought and famine of 2011 and members are committed to ensure that in the future, early warning will translate into valuable, early action. On a monthly basis, the latest IPC data are used by the FSNWG to update the regional map of food security and nutrition conditions. In coordination with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), REOA supports the secretariat of the FSNWG and co-chairs these monthly meetings.

Innovative technologies for collecting and sharing food security data

REOA also provides technical assistance and capacity development to ensure that partners and communities are fully equipped to use ICT (e.g. digital pen technology or mobile data collection tools) to capture high quality data. A knowledge platform has been set up for collecting and disseminating disaster information. The site  provides insights and linkages between local, national and regional frameworks and actions.

Building resilience among farming and (agro)pastoral communities

Agriculture – including crop and livestock production – remains the main source of food and income for about 80 percent of the region’s population. REOA has been working with development partners in implementing interventions that link relief and long-term development, building drought resilience for improved food and nutrition security. Through targeted initiatives, REOA promotes farmers’ knowledge and skills in good farming practices, disease identification, distribution and use of disease free-planting material and seeds. To reduce the vulnerability of agropastoral communities a top-down, bottom-up approach is implemented, linking advocacy to field work.

Tackling gender and HIV issues in agriculture

An estimated 3.5 million people are living with HIV in East and Central Africa. In emergency situations, exposure to sexual exploitation, abuse and gender-based violence greatly increases the risk of exposure to HIV. At the same time, food insecurity and malnutrition can accelerate the development of the virus into full-blown AIDS. REOA is bridging the gap between food security and nutrition responses through integrated interventions that increase awareness on gender issues, reduce the stigma of HIV and promote the adoption of better agricultural techniques and nutrition practices in the most vulnerable communities.

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