Donors commit around US$20.5 million in response to tsunami appeal

Donors commit around US$20.5 million in response to tsunami appeal


With the tsunami relief effort now in its second month, FAO announced today that it has received firm donor commitments of around US$20.5 million to finance early recovery assistance for the millions of fisherfolk and farmers affected by the disaster.

Much more support will be needed to help rebuild the devastated fisheries and agriculture sectors on which the majority of people in the hardest hit communities depend for their livelihoods. In Indonesia alone, the damage and losses to agriculture, fisheries, agro-enterprises, irrigation and flood control systems, and the environment amount to approximately US$1.3 billion.

The challenge will be to ensure that the unprecedented response of donors to all of the implementing agencies is used in a coordinated and optimal way.

Initial cost estimates conservative

So far, FAO has received more than US$11 million in cash in response to its initial appeal for US$29 million. An additional US$9.5 million in donor funds have been officially confirmed, and the organization has provided US$1.5 million from its own resources.

"FAO's initial appeal was conservative, based on the information available at the time," said Richard China, Rome-based coordinator of FAO's rehabilitation activities. "Emphasis was on replacement and repair of the means of production, as livelihood recovery is usually underfunded in responses to disasters."

Immediate priorities covered by the appeal included coordination and technical assistance; supply of fishing gear, repair and replacement of boats, rehabilitation and restocking of fish ponds, early rehabilitation of harbours, anchorages, and fish storage and processing facilities; seeds, tools and other agricultural inputs; repair of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, and reclamation of crop land affected by salt water flooding.

Effective coordination key

Given the huge contributions of private and public donors in response to the disaster (according to UN estimates, more than US$5.5 billion to both UN and non-governmental organizations), the extent of the devastation and the complexity of the issues to be addressed, the need for coordination and technical assistance has become paramount to avoid oversupply of inappropriate and fragmented assistance, said Richard China.

As a result, the governments of the disaster-affected countries and a number of donors have called on FAO to take the lead in assisting the governments with coordination of the planning for rehabilitation of the agriculture and fisheries sectors - a call echoed by the Group of 77 and the European Commissioner for Fisheries, who have specifically asked FAO to head up coordination of fisheries rehabilitation in the region.

Road to recovery

So far, FAO has deployed a team of 70 international and regional fisheries and agricultural experts to the countries affected by the disaster. FAO's experts are working with governments and other local counterparts to provide immediate direct assistance when possible, but also to formulate a medium- and longer-term response to the disaster to help affected communities get back on their feet.

Timely and flexible commitments by Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom to FAO's newly established Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities made it possible for FAO to rapidly field experts to assist governments in assessing the damage and to embark on the planning and coordination of early recovery without first having to prepare and negotiate detailed project proposals.

Other donors that have already disbursed or confirmed contributions towards FAO's rehabilitation efforts in the region include Italy, Japan, Belgium, China, Canada, and Palau, and negotiations with additional donors continue.

Procurement activities are under way in a number of countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, where FAO has just delivered its first consignment of boat repair kits and spare parts for engines, as well as soil salinity testing equipment, tools, knapsack sprayers, and irrigation pumps. Procurement plans have also been made for seeds and tools for the March/April planting season.

In Indonesia, where the destruction and loss of life was greatest, many of the survivors have been too traumatized to think about recovery.

"A complex set of issues, compounded by trauma, means that many families will not be able or willing to resume the livelihood activities they had before the disaster," said China. "Salt water flooding may prevent farmers from cropping their land for one or more seasons or force them to adopt more salt tolerant crops and varieties. Property rights are threatened, not least for widows and orphans. So we need to look at alternative livelihoods."

But, he added, the recovery effort could enable people to come out of the disaster further ahead than they were before. "There is widespread agreement that the disaster provides an opportunity to empower the survivors to invest in enhanced, more diverse and sustainable livelihood options, and not to reconstruct the poverty that existed before," he said.

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