The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is scaling up its support to Jordan and other countries in the Middle East affected by the humanitarian crisis in Syria that has entered its fifth year.
In the presence of Jordan’s agricultural minister, Akef Alzoubi, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva initiated three projects to improve food security and nutrition by making better data available to decision-makers and preventing the spread of animal diseases across borders.
“Thanks to a US$1.6 million grant from USAID’s Food For Peace program, FAO will provide technical assistance to government institutions and other partners in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq to establish an inclusive food security information network that will enhance the understanding and analysis of food security issues in the region,” da Silva said during a visit to Jordan.
According to the UN, about 3.9 million people have fled Syria, the vast majority becoming refugees in neighboring countries.
Better data for strategic action
By improving analysis and data sharing between UN agencies, non-government organizations and governments on food security, the new information network will allow better-informed interventions for vulnerable populations and ensure that the limited resources are applied where they are needed most.
“Resources for responding to the Syria crisis are limited in relation to the needs, so it’s crucial for UN agencies and partners to strategically target their assistance, taking into account the severity, scale and underlying causes of vulnerability,” said FAO’s Representative in Jordan Nasredin Hag Elamin.
“Having timely food security information is essential to guide this effort and will help relief and resilience agencies make sound decisions on the types of actions needed to support the affected Syrian population and neighboring countries that host refugees.”
Complementing this larger effort is a half-million-dollar project funded through FAO’s Technical Cooperation Program to help national institutions in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq better respond to food security concerns and strengthen communities’ resilience to shocks.
The FAO Director-General and the government of Jordan signed an agreement that aims to improve availability and sharing of livelihood data and increase the capacities of partner countries for early warning about threats to food security.
The FAO says Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were facing significant challenges in the fight against hunger and malnutrition even prior to the crisis in Syria.
The ongoing conflict has raised additional challenges for these neighboring countries to reach important Millennium Development Goals related to nutrition, food security, access to water and sanitation, as well as child and maternal mortality.
Early warning to contain animal diseases
The collapse of public veterinary services in Syria is posing additional threats as an increased number of livestock have been crossing into neighboring countries and potentially spreading animal diseases.
To contain the spread of animal diseases across borders FAO and the government of Jordan have agreed to support local governments and veterinary laboratories in increasing early detection and disease control, while also assessing the socio-economic impact of these diseases on pastoralist communities across Jordan.
“Livestock is the primary livelihood for Jordan’s many pastoralist communities and a source of nutrition to the country as a whole. Being able to intervene early to protect herds from diseases is therefore a key part of protecting food security in this time of crisis,” said Hag Elamin.
Supporting hard-hit communities in the north
Jordanian households and Syrian refugees living in Northern Jordan have been affected the most by the Syria crisis in terms of food security and nutrition.
Through a recently approved US$0.5 million grant from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, FAO, in collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture, will launch a pilot project supporting the most vulnerable in these communities with the introduction of micro-gardens and in-depth nutrition training.
The goal is to improve the communities’ intake of micro-nutrients by increasing access to safe and nutritious foods and promoting nutrition-friendly cooking.