FAO responds to devastation wrought by natural disasters in the Caribbean and South Asia
Emergency assistance urgently needed in hurricane- and flood-affected countries
27 September 2004, Rome - As natural disasters continue to plague the Caribbean and South Asia, FAO is working to provide emergency assistance to hurricane and flood victims in the worst-affected countries.
Latin America and the Caribbean
The Organization just approved a regional project for US$400 000 to assist countries in the Caribbean and some parts of Latin America affected by the devastating, ongoing hurricane season.
Following official requests from the Governments of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti, FAO will assist hurricane-affected farmers in these countries, as well as in Cuba and Nicaragua.
The project aims to mitigate the negative impact of floods and mudslides resulting from recent adverse climatic events by promoting prompt resumption of agricultural production through emergency provision of agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilizer and tools, to affected farmers.
In Haiti, FAO is already implementing five emergency projects, with a total budget of approximately US$1 600 000, in response to previous emergencies.
Other projects are currently being developed for the provision of additional agricultural inputs to farmers in the hardest-hit countries, as well as assistance to governments in the region on preparedness and early response to help farmers in the most flood-affected areas.
Assessing the damage
In the aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne, the latest in the string of hurricanes that have battered the Caribbean and Central America in recent weeks, FAO is currently conducting damage assessment missions in Grenada, Haiti and Jamaica -- among the worst-affected countries in the region -- to plan its agricultural rehabilitation and food security activities.
FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf has met with a number of representatives from affected countries to emphasize the Organization's commitment to assisting them in the wake of these disasters and to helping the countries mobilize international resources.
FAO continues to receive requests for assistance from the region. The Governments of the Bahamas and Grenada have been in contact with the Organization to request assistance, and FAO has already sent personnel to support the damage assessment missions in these countries.
South Asia: countries still struggling
In South Asia, torrential rains and floods in July and August have caused significant damage to the agricultural sector, devastating rural livelihoods in Bangladesh, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Myanmar and Nepal.
A regional project for US$400 000 to support ongoing national agricultural rehabilitation efforts through the provision of emergency assistance to flood-affected countries in South and Southeast Asia was approved last week by FAO.
Bangladesh: agricultural season in peril
In Bangladesh, where nearly 33 million people have been affected by the flooding, the situation is particularly dire. Some 800 000 hectares of cropland have been submerged. Small-scale farmers are hardest hit, as they have lost their August rice crops, jute harvest, and livestock.
Acute shortages of seeds and seedlings and depletion of national stocks are aggravating the situation and jeopardizing the forthcoming main agricultural season.
Preliminary estimates have put the immediate losses in agricultural output at US$500 million, but actual losses may be much higher as the waters recede and the situation becomes clearer.
Donor response slow
Bangladesh's requirements in the agricultural sector are estimated at US$11 million, but donor response to a UN appeal for funding last month has been slow. To date, FAO has received approximately US$300 000, through a contribution from the Government of Norway, to address the pressing need for agricultural relief and rehabilitation. The Government of Sweden has pledged US$650 000.
Outside assistance is urgently needed so that poor farmers can obtain the necessary agricultural inputs to re-plant their rice crops in time for the winter harvest.
Information Officer, FAO
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