CL 115/INF/24


Hundred-and-fifteenth Session

Rome, 23 - 28 November 1998



1.    Members of the Council are aware of the exceptional series of natural disasters that occurred recently, in particular in Asia and Latin America. FAO wishes to inform of the serious consequences of these natural disasters in these regions and of the activities undertaken by the Organization to date to address some of the resulting problems. FAO also wishes to inform on the activities envisaged to contribute to the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector of the countries concerned. The time frame of this review encompasses the period from July to November 1998.

2. In Asia, heavy rains and floods have inflicted severe damage in several countries, especially Bangladesh, China and some parts of India and the Philippines. Thousands of people have been killed while crops and infrastructure have been heavily damaged. In Cambodia drought affected crop production, and in Viet Nam a combination of drought and subsequent floods damaged crops and property.

3. In the Caribbean Islands Hurricane Georges has devastated Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.

4. In Central America, the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch have resulted in major human casualties and in damage to infrastructure and agricultural production of an unprecedented scale. Honduras and Nicaragua have been the hardest hit. Guatemala and El Salvador have also been severely affected and, to a lesser extent, Costa Rica and some southwestern parts of Mexico and Belize.

5. In all these situations, FAO is closely liaising with WFP and IFAD to assess the immediate requirements and to ensure a coordinated approach and, whenever possible, combined action for post-disaster recovery.

6. Moreover, FAO is actively participating in the UN Inter-Agency effort to assist the victims, focusing on food production and agriculture. The main forms of FAO’s interventions include needs assessments, provision of agricultural inputs and technical assistance for the planning and management of sustainable recovery and rehabilitation of rural production systems.

7. While the Organization uses Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) resources to assist Member Countries in the immediate recovery of agriculture production, the magnitude of these disasters require major international support. Related appeals for assistance will be launched by FAO as appropriate.

8. FAO’s reaction to the major emergencies during this period is briefly summarized below:


9. Heavy monsoon rains that started in the second decade of July caused extensive flooding in two-thirds of the country. The floods resulted in loss of life and extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Recent reports put the death toll at more that 1 000 people. Some 25 million people are reported to have been affected by the floods, with many thousands left homeless. Over two million head of cattle were also affected.

10. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which visited the country in October, found that the unprecedented monsoon floods from July to September caused a loss of around 2.2 million tonnes of rice production.

11. On 4 September 1998, a UN Joint Inter-Agency Appeal for Relief to the Flood-affected Victims in Bangladesh was launched for a total value of US$ 223 million. The agriculture component of the appeal includes the procurement and supply of agricultural inputs to the most affected farmers for an amount of US$36 million.

12. An Emergency Operation for flood victims was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in September for approximately US$ 84.4 million targetting 19 million beneficiaries for a period of 5 months.

13. On 18 September 1998, the Director-General approved a contribution of US$ 250,000 from FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) for the "Emergency Supply of Vegetable Seeds to Flood-Affected Farmers in Bangladesh". This project targets 100,000 flood-affected farmers and is now operational.

14. As a response to the UN Joint Inter-Agency Appeal for Relief to the Flood Affected Victims in Bangladesh, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) pledged through the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) on 22 September 1998 US$ 200,000 for the procurement of agricultural inputs by FAO. A project proposal "Emergency Supply of Agricultural Inputs to Flood-Affected Marginal and Landless Farmers, Mainly Women Headed Farm Households, in the Most Severely Affected Five Districts (Faridpur, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Gopalganj and Pirojpur)" has been finalized and transfer of funds by OCHA is awaited.

15. On 7 October 1998, a second TCP emergency assistance project was approved providing a contribution of US$ 400,000 for the "Emergency Supply of Veterinary Medicines and Vaccines to Flood-affected Livestock Farmers in Bangladesh". The project is currently operational.

16. On 21 October 1998, FAO’s Special Relief Operations Service (TCOR) fielded, under TCP funding, a mission for a detailed assessment of flood impact and damages in the fisheries and livestock sectors. The mission will formulate project proposals with detailed cost estimates and implementation plans for short-term as well as medium/long-term rehabilitation in the fisheries and livestock sectors.

17. The late arrival of this year's wet season (June-October) and the below-average rains have damaged crops and delayed the harvest, particularly in the southern parts of the country. Severe food shortages were also reported in the northeast, which suffered drought conditions earlier this year, with many households receiving relief food aid.

18. The Government has made an appeal to the international community for about 250 000 tonnes of rice to be distributed to the drought-affected population.

19. Two consultants were fielded by TCOR in October to perform an in-depth assessment of the damage to the agricultural sector in drought-affected areas and estimate the most urgent needs. The consultants will identify and formulate detailed and costed agricultural projects for the immediate rehabilitation of the agricultural sector. As soon as available, these will be submitted to the attention of the donor community.

20. In the summer, floods in central and southern China destroyed several million hectares of cropland, damaged agricultural infrastructure and, in some cases, delayed planting of the late double crop. Most of the provinces affected are major rice-producing areas. At the present time, drought conditions are affecting winter wheat growth in the north and the maturation of late rice in the south.

21. An Emergency Operation was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 17 September 1998 for a total cost of US$87.7 million to assist 5.8 million flood-affected people in Anhui, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi Provinces for a period of four months.

22. Following the request of the Government of the People's Republic of China, a TCP project entitled " Emergency Supply of Basic Agricultural Inputs to Farmers Affected by Flood in Jiangxi, Anhui and Hunan Provinces " for an amount of US$ 400,000, was approved by the Director-General in August 1998. All the agriculture inputs have been procured and distributed to beneficiaries.

23. In September 1998, FAO participated in the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) mission to assess damage in to flood-affected areas of China. The related UN Inter-Agency Appeal for "Emergency Relief and Initial Rehabilitation" was launched in Geneva on 23 September 1998. The Government of Sweden has pledged US$ 90,000 to FAO for an "In-depth assessment of flood damage and Formulation of Project Proposals for Rehabilitation of the Agriculture Sector". The mission will assess damage in the flood-affected areas of Hunan, Hubei and Heilongjiang Provinces and formulate project proposals for immediate relief and short-term rehabilitation of the agriculture sector. The mission is scheduled to depart on 25 November 1998 for three weeks.

24. A second TCP emergency assistance project in the northeast provinces entitled " Emergency Supply of Basic Agricultural Inputs to Farmers Affected by Floods in Northeastern Provinces" for an amount of US$ 400,000 was approved by the Director-General on 19 November 1998. The project’s objective is to assist the Government by providing seeds and fertilizers to farmers most affected by floods in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Jilin Provinces.

25. Following severe floods and landslides during the month of September in West Bengal, TCOR fielded a consultant to assess emergency requirements in the agriculture sector. He also joined the current UN Inter-Agency Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) Mission. The mission’s report will be finalized in early December.

26. Late October typhoons Zeb and Babs, which came within days of each other, damaged about 650 000 tonnes of paddy in Luzon, the country's rice bowl.

An evaluation of damage is being carried out by an FAO consultant and information on necessary remedial relief measures will be directed to the attention of the international donor community.

27. The agricultural sector has been adversely affected by unfavourable weather conditions. Prolonged drought this summer affected more than three million people. In October-November 1998 there was severe flooding, which according to the latest OCHA situation report dated 6 November 1998, has destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of paddy rice in the central region. Damage has been estimated at US$ 13.7 million. A consultant is being recruited by FAO to undertake an in-depth assessment of the damage caused to the agriculture sector and an estimate of the short-term agricultural rehabilitation needs.


28. Hurricane rains, flooding and high-force winds in late September caused extensive damage to housing and to the agricultural and livestock sectors, as well as to forestry and fishery. A request for the emergency rehabilitation of agriculture has been made recently by the Government and is currently under review by FAO.

29. The country was hit in September by Hurricane "Georges". FAO assisted the Government in the assessment of the situation and the needs for immediate rehabilitation of the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors.

30. An emergency operation for 34 000 tonnes of relief food, worth approximately US$20.5 million to assist some 615 000 persons, mostly nursing mothers, school children and drought victims in the eastern provinces, was approved in August.

31. A request for the emergency rehabilitation of agricultural activities has also been made by the Government and a TCP project for immediate assistance to the most affected farmers is being finalized. The preparation of emergency project profiles for submission to the international donor community is also currently underway.

32. Torrential rains, flooding and hurriccane winds in late September caused heavy loss of life and left more than 100 000 people homeless. Some of the affected areas are among the main crop-growing regions of the country. An assessment of damage to the agricultural sector indicates that 90 percent of food and export crops were damaged to a varying extent. About 190 000 hectares under foodcrops have been severely affected, including some 20 000 hectares of paddy. The important foreign exchange earners tobacco and sugar cane also sustained extensive damage. Severe damage was also inflicted to banana crops, particularly in the south-western parts of the country. Consumer prices of this important staple have considerably increased.

33. Emergency food aid to about 25 000 persons and other types of relief assistance are presently being provided by the international community. Plans for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the affected zones are being formulated. FAO experts carried out an assessment of the crop and food supply situation and of the most urgent needs for agricultural rehabilitation. FAO fielded an Operations Officer from the Special Relief Operations Service to assist in the preparation of a TCP project for immediate assistance to the most affected farmers and the formulation of a short-term rehabilitation programme.

34. Virtually the whole country was affected by hurricane flooding and mudslides, combined with high-force winds in late September. Extensive damage has been caused to the 1998 second-season sorghum crop, as well as to the millet crop, mostly grown in the central plateau, the productive Artibonite valley, the southwest and the northern parts of the country. In the flooded zones, beans, vegetables, roots and tubers and other minor food crops are reported to have been ruined. About 80 percent of the important banana plantations in the southwest have been destroyed. Great losses have been also inflicted on small farm animals.

35. Food assistance from the international community is now expected to increase in view of the serious crop losses incurred. FAO took the lead with the Ministry of Agriculture to assess the most urgent needs for the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sector. In early November, a preliminary report was distributed in Haiti to the donor community, and an appeal with costed project proposals will be launched soon.

36. The country was affected by hurricane rains, flooding and high-force winds in late September. About 85 per cent of the houses have suffered some damage and about 3 000 to 3 500 persons have been left homeless (in a total population of 39 000). The agricultural sector has also been damaged, particularly the most important foreign exchange earner, the sugar-cane crop. Early estimates indicate that about 50 percent of the sugar cane crop has been destroyed. Banana plantations were seriously damaged and other fruit and minor foodcrops were equally affected.

37. A request for food relief assistance and the emergency rehabilitation of agricultural activities has been made by the Government. A TCP project proposal for urgent assistance to the farmers and fishermen affected by the disaster is under preparation.

(Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, south-western parts of Mexico and Belize)

Impact Of Hurricane Mitch on Crop and Food Supply Situation – Overview

38. Between 26 October and 1 November, Hurricane "Mitch" swept across several Central American countries, with torrential rains, and high winds causing widespread flooding. By 15 November, about 9 550 people had been confirmed dead and over 9 200 missing in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The total affected population in these countries is estimated at about 3 200 000 people, of which about 138 000 have totally lost their homes or have suffered severe damage to their properties. Damage to the countries’ infrastructure and agriculture is of an unprecedented scale. Honduras and Nicaragua have been the hardest hit. Guatemala and El Salvador have also been severely affected, and, to a lesser extent, Costa Rica and some southwestern parts of Mexico and Belize.

39. A satisfactory outcome of the 1998 first-season cereal crop raised hopes of recovery in output, after the poor El Niņo-affected crops last year. These hopes have vanished as fields under foodcrops, mostly cultivated by small farmers, have been washed away in every country. Banana, coffee and sugar plantations, which are vital sources of foreign exchange, have been devastated in several countries, as have non-traditional export crops such as melons, fruits and vegetables. The banana-growing areas of Guatemala and Honduras, which together account for over 10 percent of world supplies, were heavily affected, with reported losses ranging from 60 to 90 percent. Damage to farm infrastructure is immense and thousands of workers in farm export companies have remained jobless.

40. More detailed information on the serious crop damage and food shortages in Central America is provided in FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System’s Special Alert issued on 6 November 1998.


41. A massive emergency relief assistance has been launched by the international community. The FAO Director–General and the WFP Executive Director have jointly approved an emergency operation for a total cost of US$58.4 million to provide food aid for six months to 1.125 million affected people in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. As of today, the Appeal for financial support to cover this emergency operation, has already attained considerable funding.

42. Once the most immediate "life-saving" needs have been met, it is essential that emergency programmes be initiated to rehabilitate the agricultural sector soonest. To this effect, since the onset of the crisis, FAO staff assigned to field projects have been assisting Government authorities in assessment and relief activities.

43. Requests for urgent provision of seeds and tools for disaster-affected farmers in Nicaragua and Guatemala are currently under review at headquarters, and two related TCP projects should be approved in the coming days. This will permit the delivery of basic agriculture inputs for the current "apante" planting season ending by mid-December.

44. The Government of The Netherlands has already informed FAO that it is pledging financial assistance for relief to victims in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua to be channelled through on-going FAO projects. FAO is also in close contact with a number of other donors who indicated their readiness to assist.

45. At the request of the Governments of Nicaragua and Honduras, FAO, jointly with WFP and in collaboration with the relevant national authorities, is carrying out a thorough appraisal of the crop and food supply situation and of the most urgent needs for agricultural rehabilitation. Based on the findings of these missions, a programme of emergency interventions will be formulated for the immediate rehabilitation of the agricultural sector of each country and submitted to the donor community as soon as possible. The Governments of the other countries affected by Hurricane "Mitch" are assessing the damage with their own resources and may subsequently submit requests for assistance.

46. FAO offices in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are actively involved in the preparation of FAO's contribution to the "United Nations Inter-Agency Transitional Appeal for Hurricane Mitch". The appeal will address the most immediate needs for the coming six months. It will be launched in the coming days, and FAO will follow up with donor countries.

47. FAO participated in the OCHA/UNDP meeting on UN response to the Hurricane Mitch emergency convened in New York on Wednesday, 18 November 1998. FAO will also participate in the high level meeting organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on 10-11 December 1998 in Washington DC to coordinate donors/agencies’ response for the reconstruction of the region.