Humanitarian needs, acute food insecurity are growing. Livelihood-saving agriculture activities are crucial, urgently require funding at scale - FAO Director-General
A farmer applies fungicide to the certified wheat seeds provided by FAO before sowing in Sahibzada Kalacha village, Daman district, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Stockholm/Rome - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is seeking $1.5 billion in 2022 to save the lives and livelihoods of some of the world's most food-insecure people, as acute hunger accelerates its march across the globe. The announcement was made as part of the United Nations’ large-scale humanitarian appeal launched today.
With less than 4 percent of the $41 billion required across all appeals for 2022, FAO aims to provide livelihood assistance to about 50 million people.
Intensifying and spreading conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies, climate extremes and the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – compounded by the multiple impacts of the climate crisis -- have pushed more and more people to the extremes of hunger. By September, 161 million people were experiencing high acute food insecurity of whom 45 million were facing an imminent risk of starvation – a sharp rise compared with 155 million for the whole of 2020.
Rural people are right on the frontlines. Two-thirds of those experiencing acute hunger are in rural areas, relying on agriculture for their daily food and income, and their livelihoods are being threatened.
Speaking at a high-level panel discussion at the launch of the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview, the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu stressed that the only way to halt and reverse acute hunger is to repurpose financial support to the agriculture sector, which currently receives only 8 percent of allocated humanitarian resources.
“The arc of acute food insecurity continues to shoot upwards, despite a parallel upward trend in humanitarian funding to the food sector,” he said underscoring that agriculture is crucial for providing a path out of protracted and deepening food crises and must be a fundamental element of the immediate emergency humanitarian response.
Agricultural aid strategic, but underfunded
In 2021, humanitarian appeals related to the agricultural sector were massively underfunded despite being among the most cost-effective humanitarian frontline interventions.
For example, in Afghanistan, where four out of five people experiencing high acute hunger are in rural areas, a $157 wheat cultivation assistance package can supply a family of seven with enough staple food for a full year.
Likewise, keeping livestock alive and protected against diseases costs little but provides enormous benefits. For a family on the edge, just one cup of milk a day can make the difference between life and death. In Yemen, for example, with just $8, FAO can vaccinate and deworm an average herd of five sheep or goats, protecting assets worth $500 on the local market.
To this end, the FAO Director-General called on the humanitarian sector to be more strategic in allocating resources, helping vulnerable people grow food right where it is needed most. This requires providing farmers with seeds and fertilizers in time for the planting season, as well as better access to water and other resources, Qu noted.
Conflict and climate impacts key drivers of acute food insecurity
The overarching theme of the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview - a global analysis of humanitarian needs published annually by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - was centered around climate change and humanitarian action.
While conflict remains the number one driver of acute hunger, the climate crisis acts as a risk multiplier, affecting the socio-economic condition, livelihoods and natural resources of people worldwide and increasingly eroding their capacities to cope. It also heightens tensions between communities.
Smallholders and rural communities as a whole are bearing a disproportionate burden of the impact of climate change, climate extremes and conflict. As the climate crisis deepens, livelihoods of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, fishers, foresters and pastoralists are being exposed to rapidly mounting risks. In fact, in 2020, 15 food major crises were caused primarily by weather extremes.
Acting before crises unfold
FAO highlighted today that alongside humanitarian livelihoods interventions, there is a need to ensure continued efforts to strengthen resilience and scale up disaster risk reduction at the community level to avert and minimize the impact of inevitable climate extremes on food production and availability. It is also critical to increase resources for anticipatory action linked to early warning.
In 2020/21, FAO invested $250 million in anticipatory action, and with the help of partners, the Organization aims to dedicate at least 20 percent of its emergency funding to anticipatory action by 2025.
Today’s event in Stockholm is one of six sequential launches to present the 2022 Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) taking place in various global capitals. This event was co-hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.