Typhoon Haiyan brings renewed urgency to Asia-Pacific food security summit

Children outside the Astrodome in Tacloban where thousands of shocked residents took shelter from the super-typhoon which hit on November 9.

By Naomi Mihara, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific 

The post-Haiyan emergency relief operation continues to present a logistical challenge for aid agencies trying to bring desperately needed food, water, shelter and medical supplies to the almost 13 million people affected by the disaster.  The battering of the country’s already fragile food system has both immediate and long term implications.  International organizations and NGOs have so far delivered life-saving emergency food supplies to over 3 million people, but debris choked roads and poor transport links are making it difficult to reach the more remote areas with a number of more isolated communities yet to receive any assistance, especially in northern Cebu.

With over 150,000 hectares of agricultural land damaged and fisheries badly hit, the effects on regional food supply will be felt for many months to come.  According to FAO, the severely affected areas – those in the central Visayas region, where the main season rice crop was devastated - account for one third of rice production in the country.  The impact on future crop yield is sure to be crippling unless sufficient supplies of seed and fertilizer can be distributed, and storage and irrigation facilities rebuilt, before the planting season begins in mid-December.  So far funding has been secured to provide 16,000 farming families with these necessities; however fishing communities are still waiting for urgently needed replacement boats and gear.

The disaster demonstrates the extent to which food security is a particular issue within Asia-Pacific as a whole – a region with a rapidly growing population, urbanizing at a remarkable rate, which is also increasingly being affected by extreme natural hazards.  In front of this backdrop the upcoming Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF), focusing this year on food security in the region, takes on a renewed significance.  The conference, on 26th and 27th November at the UNCC in Bangkok, will bring together business leaders, investors, NGOs and international organisations with the aim of facilitating discussions, networking, public-private partnerships and fundraising.  IOM will play a prominent role in the conference, which will in light of Haiyan pay particular attention to disaster relief measures and how to ensure food security in the face of natural disaster.  IOM’s Christopher Hoffman, Emergency and Post Crisis Specialist, will be speaking as part of a panel on this topic alongside representatives from the European Commission’s humanitarian arm ECHO and the Sustainable Environmental Ecological Development Society (SEEDS).

Limited space to join the discussion is still open for investors, policy makers, NGOs and relevant companies. Register at www.aidforumonline.org/registration or contact Claudia Weston,cweston@aidforumonline.org for more information.