The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today (September 13, 2021) called for urgent assistance to help save Afghanistan's next wheat harvest, keep life-sustaining farm animals alive, and avoid a deterioration of the country's already severe humanitarian crises.
FAO is seeking $36 million to speed up its support to Afghan farmers and ensure they will not miss the upcoming winter wheat planting season, and to assist the agriculture-based livelihoods of 3.5 million vulnerable Afghans until the end of the year.
Some 70 percent of Afghans live in rural areas, with millions depending on agriculture for their livelihood. Over half of an average Afghan's daily caloric intake comes from wheat, most of which is domestically grown.
The political turmoil in the country comes on top of a severe drought and the lingering economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning one in three Afghans - 14 million people - are already experiencing high acute food insecurity.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “Seven out of ten Afghans live in the remote and the rural areas. Severe drought, the economic effects of COVID-19, displacement, food insecurity and a fast-evolving cash crisis are all pushing rural households to collapse. The unfolding situation is causing significant new disruptions in terms of availability of cash, credit, labor, markets and agri-food inputs, threatening Afghanistan’s critical winter wheat season which is about to begin.”
QU told a High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Geneva.
FAO is also aiming to provide veterinary care and nutrition support to keep life-sustaining farm animals alive and productive, as well as deliver poultry and vegetable garden start-up kits that will allow families to feed themselves and earn supplemental incomes. Unconditional cash payments are given to highly vulnerable households headed by women, disabled persons and the elderly.
Without urgent support, farmers and pastoralists could lose their livelihoods and be forced to leave rural areas, adding further pressure to urban and peri-urban areas as internally displaced people (IDPs). The costs of assistance to IDPs are much higher than assisting them at their place of origin. For instance, with less than $150, a winter wheat seed package with fertilizer, certified seeds and training, can produce enough food to cover a family's needs for a year.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “We need action now. Without urgent and rapid assistance, farmers will miss this crucial planting season which is just starting. We also don't forget the livestock owners and herders. It takes between 3 and 5 years for farmers and herders to recover from the impact of a drought. The collapse of the agri-food systems will lead to enormous increases in hunger and malnutrition.”
Despite the current political turmoil, FAO has been able to continue operations in 28 out of the 31 provinces where it operates and aims to provide support to more than one million people in farming and livestock-owning families during the coming weeks.
FAO has already provided livelihood and cash assistance to over 1.9 million people so far this year. FAO has long-established relationships with a network of partners and financial institutions in Afghanistan, as well as with at-risk communities themselves.
With this appeal, FAO is seeking $21 million in urgent funding to fill a commitment gap in its humanitarian response, which currently totals $36 million.
SOUNDBITE (English) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General: “Under the Flash Appeal, FAO urgently requires 36 million US Dollars to support additional 3.5 million people over the next four months. FAO stands with the girls, boys, women and men - and farmers - of Afghanistan. We count on you to stand with us for the vulnerable, to ensure that no one is left behind.”
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, convened the international community for the High-Level Ministerial Meeting to express solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and pledge tangible support to address their critical humanitarian needs.