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FAO rapidly responds to severe drought in Viet Nam

24/05/2016

FAO Viet Nam is taking a leading role in response to a Government call for help in dealing with the country’s most severe drought in more than 60 years.

The 2015/16 El Niño weather phenomenon has left many parts of the country, especially the southern Mekong Delta, South Central and Central Highlands regions, in a state of emergency. Since mid-2015, 52 of 63 provinces – more than 83 per cent of the country – have been affected by drought, with 18 severely affected as of 11 May, 2016. This has left two million people suffering acute water shortages and requiring humanitarian assistance.

Crop damage has been severe in many vulnerable communities, with 60-90 per cent of planted crops harmed in drought-affected provinces and planting for the new season not possible until shortly before the next rainy season in one to two months. A total of 425 900 hectares of cropland, including 320 000ha of the staple rice crop have been damaged. Of the damaged rice crop, 155 009ha suffered losses of 70 per cent of production or more. In total, more than 600 000ha of the vital crop could be seriously affected by July 2016. As a result, an estimated 1.75 million people have lost their incomes due to the impact of the drought on the agriculture sector.

In response to this unprecedented emergency, the Vietnamese Government in mid-March 2016 requested FAO’s help as part of international assistance to respond to the drought and saltwater intrusion emergency. To underscore the magnitude and scale of the emergency, it was the first time the Government had called for international support since the historic 1999 floods, which affected seven central provinces.

The Vietnamese Government has led the way to respond to this crisis and FAO is committed to utilize its strategic comparative advantages to target those most critically affected by the drought and in urgent need of immediate, lifesaving support,” said FAO Representative in Viet Nam Jong-Ha Bae.

In response, FAO rapidly mobilized its resources to actively participate in a joint multi-sector rapid assessment from 21-24 March, 2016 in six of the worst-affected provinces selected on the geographical nature of drought/saltwater emergencies, representation of regional issues and needs and on-going UN programme interventions.

FAO also allocated USD92 000 of its own resources to carry out two field assessment missions.

The first assessment mission in early March was to assist the Institute of Water and the Environment (IWE) with development of a set of suitable agricultural drought indices for the South Central Coast and Central Highlands as well as explore the use of available FAO tools, such as the Global Information and Early Warning System. This FAO response was noted and appreciated by the Vice Minister of Agriculture who urged donors to fund a FAO-Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development co-developed concept note.

A second mission is currently being undertaken from 2-26 May in collaboration with the Government, UN Women and World Food Programme to assess damage caused by the drought and saltwater intrusion to the agricultural sector, particularly its sub-sectors such as crop production, livestock, aquaculture and especially seed security. It will also assess the risks and vulnerabilities caused by the disaster in relation to agricultural livelihoods and responses from the Government, UN and NGOs and recommend interventions in the immediate, medium and long terms.

In contrast to these lower profile missions, the severity of the drought and FAO’s response came under the international spotlight when it accompanied the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson to the field in early May in drought-affected Ben Tre province, where he stressed the importance of agricultural adaptation to climate change as well as use of FAO’s technical expertise to mitigate the long term effects of climate change.

Going forward, FAO has developed a joint Government/UN Response Plan in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and UN calling for USD5 million to support FAO in the next six months with interventions in the agricultural sector, including in livestock and fisheries.

Affected communities will be targeted with food security and early recovery assistance, including cash and/or vouchers distribution to extremely poor and vulnerable households, emergency distribution of seeds and fertilizers. Support will also include distribution of livestock feed, water and improved storage facilities for livestock feed as well as some restocking of animals at the onset of the monsoon and specific livelihood sectoral support.

To ensure FAO’s short-term support translates into better prepared communities, it requires USD12 million to support the production of drought resistant seeds, provide technical assistance for climate change adaptation, support improved irrigation techniques and access to markets and elaborate a drought index for an integrated early warning system.

“FAO will continue its support to ensure rural communities, especially the most vulnerable, in Viet Nam are better prepared to respond to such disasters and become more resilient to ongoing climate change-related challenges,” said Jong-Ha Bae.