5 ways FAO helps people in emergencies

Saving livelihoods saves lives

17 Aug 2018

Disasters, like an earthquake or a violent coup d’état, can strike suddenly, or like droughts and floods, develop slowly. Emergencies are devastating for people everywhere, but for those whose livelihoods or food needs depend entirely on agriculture and natural resources, these disasters can often be overwhelming. FAO addresses emergencies in a variety of ways from early warning and preparedness to rebuilding livelihoods and making communities more resilient. 

Here are just five of the many ways in which FAO helps people in or after emergencies:

1. Early warning. Early action

Many crises, such as natural disasters, are largely unavoidable, but there is a lot that can be done early on to mitigate them. For example, FAO is using unmanned aerial drones to detect conditions that can lead to desert locust plagues or gather data on where agricultural systems are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. This information helps FAO and governments identify ways to counter these risks.

2. Investing in local people and economies

Cash transfer (i.e. regular money payments to poor households), voucher schemes and cash-for-work programmes enable people to identify for themselves what their most pressing needs are and decide which goods and services they wish to purchase in local markets. These programmes are quickly becoming a key feature of FAO’s early recovery operations, as they rapidly contribute to strengthening the food and nutritional security of vulnerable populations. FAO has seen these programmes increase daily food consumption, improve people’s nutrition, increase school enrolment, reduce child labour and augment agricultural investment. 

3. Helping people to provide for themselves

Often times in crises or natural disasters, people lose their land, livestock, farming equipment or other assets, making it difficult for them to restart their livelihoods.

Before, during and after an emergency, FAO distributes agricultural kits (seeds, tools and fertilizers) so that farmers can begin to grow food again and regain an income. FAO also provides vaccines or other veterinary services to safeguard livestock, another important part of many people’s livelihoods. For example, in Haiti, thousands of livestock died in hurricane Matthew and many of those that survived were sick. Haiti has very few public veterinarians and they were not equipped to save all the animals in need. FAO ran mobile veterinary clinics to protect the livestock of vulnerable families, benefitting more than 12 000 people. 

4. Developing resilient livelihoods

People with resilient livelihoods are better able to prevent and reduce the impact of climate change and disasters on their lives. They can better withstand damage, recover and adapt when disasters cannot be prevented.  

In close collaboration with its partners, FAO works in countries and regions around the world to assess the impacts of climate change  and offers guidance on climate-smart agriculture techniques.  This includes the introduction of crops that are drought-resistant or thrive in extreme heat. By using different varieties of seeds, better fishing nets or crop rotation techniques, we are helping people make their livelihoods more efficient now as well as sustainable for the future.

5. Helping to make migration a choice

FAO is helping to make migration a choice by addressing some of the root causes of migration, such as hunger, poverty, and the impacts of climate change. 

Migrants often flee to areas already struggling with food security and inadequate livelihoods. FAO helps support both refugee and host communities to strengthen livelihoods and food production. In Lebanon, FAO and its partners helped Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese families create “Garden Walls,” a gardening technique that allows people to grow herbs and vegetables vertically without requiring arable land. These micro-gardens use readily available materials, like plastic crates, and provide much-needed food for families, women-headed households in particular, who do not own land.

Working together

This year, the world has seen some of the largest food crises in decades, with four countries — northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen — severely food insecure or in a state of famine.  FAO works with key partners such as sister UN agencies, NGOs, governments and the private sector to tackle the many facets of emergencies. 

Do you want to be a part of our team? Join our emergency response roster or see FAO’s other openings in the Field.



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