Director-General QU Dongyu stresses that time is of the essence in address to UN High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan
13 September 2021, Rome/Geneva - The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today 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.
"The window of opportunity to assist Afghan farmers before winter is very narrow. It is critical that support be scaled-up and speeded-up immediately. Without urgent and rapid assistance, farmers will miss this crucial planting season, which is just starting," Qu told a High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Geneva.
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.
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.
"We need to keep farmers in their fields and livestock owners with their herds to prevent a deeper crisis with increased humanitarian needs in the future,"," Qu said.
Ongoing assistance in Afghanistan
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 today's appeal, FAO is seeking $21 million in urgent funding to fill a commitment gap in its humanitarian response, which currently totals $36 million.
"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," QU said.
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.