ISLAMABAD  : The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) held an informal briefing in Rome to examine the best practices and country examples of its work to help mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic’s damage to people’s lives and livelihoods, said a statement issued here on Tuesday.

Qu Dongyu, the director general of FAO chaired the briefing, attended by permanent representatives of the FAO member states. The briefing focused on FAO’s humanitarian response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Pakistan, FAO is spearheading action to keep the food chains running in the face of the pandemic. In addition to the policy and technical support being provided to the food security ministry and the provincial governments, FAO is also working with the government and other partners to help strengthen resilience by contributing to national efforts to curb the transmission of the virus.

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in particular, FAO is raising awareness among the rural farming communities in some of the most remote areas of the country, where the organisation has wide networks and is running parallel campaigns, both online and at the field level to harness broader networks.

With over 60% of the population living in rural areas, the number of households who derive food and livelihoods from farming make up a significant majority of the population. Together with UN partners and the government of Pakistan, FAO is helping fill the information gap in rural areas by taking action to ensure effective dissemination of information to most vulnerable communities.

At the briefing, FAO Representative in Pakistan Minà Dowlatchahi presented Pakistan’s case on how the UN agency was managing to continue essential operations in the face of the pandemic, focusing on social messaging to farmers, pastoralists and Covid-19 risk mitigation.

“FAO in Pakistan has worked closely with the government to assist their delivery of services to vulnerable people in some of the most challenging areas of the country,” said Dowlatchahi. “We will continue to do our utmost to help the people of Pakistan face down the challenges of Covid-19.”

As part of its work in rural communities, FAO is raising awareness regarding the potential impacts of the virus’ spread on food and agriculture, value and supply chains, food prices and food security through various means of communication to support the government in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Various digital campaigns are being run across all provinces of Pakistan where FAO is sharing important information with different farmer groups and local communities in an effort to sensitise local communities on the measures that can help protect against Covid-19.

FAO teams are conducting regular online awareness sessions with local farmers, agriculture and livestock workers and technicians to help them understand how farmers can help curtail the spread of the virus by adopting practices such as handwashing, physical distancing and other precautions.

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The impacts of the outbreak resulted in the disruption of food supply chains, gaps in farming inputs and unemployment. Over 81,000 most vulnerable people, both men and women, have been directly engaged through frontline workers to help these communities protect against Covid-19.

Prior to Covid-19 pandemic, 135 million people experienced crisis level of acute food insecurity. Covid-19 and related restrictions risk pushing many more into acute hunger. In Pakistan, it is estimated that 21 million people were already severely food insecure before the onset of Covid-19. Preventing new or worsening food crises requires urgent action.