IOFS Humanitarian Food Assistance
Since the events that occured in Afghanistan in August of 2021, which culminated in the change of government on August 15, international humanitarian agencies have been taking action to mitigate the threat of widespread famine that has been affecting Afghans. It is understood from several reports that job losses, lack of cash and soaring prices are creating a new class of hungry in Afghanistan. 22.8 million Afghans, which is more than half of the population, are not consuming enough food. The country is on the brink of economic collapse, with the local currency hitting record low, and food prices are on the rise. During last winter, acute malnutrition was above emergency thresholds in 27 out of 34 provinces, and as winter was approaching, getting food into the country and prepositioning it in strategic locations was the most urgent task for us.
The Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS), as a specialized Organ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and this is considered to be the most important challenge nowadays. In fact, the IOFS statute provides the organization with a mandate to assess and monitor the state of food security in member states to be able to identify emergencies, provide social safety nets and humanitarian assistance through food security reserves.
Considering the dire and bleak humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, on December 18-19, 2021, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan hosted in Islamabad the 17th Extraordinary CFM on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan. A comprehensive Resolution was adopted by the participating Member States, which launched an “Afghanistan Food Security Program” (AFSP) and lauded the IOFS for taking necessary efforts for the implementation of this program. The following are the operative paragraphs:
18. Decides to launch an Afghanistan Food Security Program, and requests the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) to undertake necessary work in this regard using the capacity of the Organization’s Food Security Reserves, when necessary;
19. Encourages OIC Member States, international donors, the UN Funds and Programmes and other international actors to generously contribute to the Afghanistan Food Security Program.
IOFS Efforts in Implementing AFSP
H.E. Yerlan Baidaulet, IOFS Director General, immediately appointed an AFSP Task Force at the Secretariat, and initiated several consultations with different OIC Member States and relevant OIC institutions. In this context, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in January 2022 with the Islamic Committee of the International Crescent (ICIC) for it to partner with the IOFS in the implementation of AFSP, an organization with an important distribution network in Afghanistan.
Kazakhstan has pledged its support for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Relief initiative from the very first moment. In fact, within the AFSP, as an immediate response, the IOFS puts forward three Projects, as follows:
1. Supply of Wheat Flour to Afghanistan (which includes an IOFS-Kazakhstan Initiative);
2. IOFS-ICIC Partnership for Afghanistan Emergency Food Support;
3. Model Case for Cereals Cultivation and Flour Production;
4. Potable Water Cleaning facilities for several rural areas.
In the context of the IOFS-Kazakhstan Initiative, the idea is to provide 15,000+ (up to 25,000) tons of wheat flour by ensuring that the Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Agriculture and private exporters would provide wheat flour at the discount prices. The 15,000 tons of wheat flour would feed 1.5 million people for 20 days. However, the IOFS Secretariat is also actively coordinating with member countries and potential international donors with full support and collaboration from the Foreign Ministry of the hosting country.
Keeping in mind the urgency of needing to launch the AFSP, the IOFS Director General in January-February held a number of meetings in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Oman with government officials and concerned humanitarian entities to present these immediate response actions. In fact, all Member States and OIC institutions (Islamic Development Bank Group; Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture; Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation; Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation, etc) were encouraged to facilitate their coordination with the IOFS Secretariat, including at the 48th Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC, held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 22-23, 2022.
The IOFS has gladly taken note of some OIC Member States being actively involved in providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. For example, in September 2021, Uzbekistan provided aid in the amount of 1,300 tons, and the Kyrgyz Republic followed suit. On Oct, 15, 2021, Kazakhstan delivered food aid in the amount of 5,000 tons of wheat flour worth $2.5 million. The Islamic Republic of Iran, Kingdom of Bahrain, State of Qatar, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and many other Muslim countries also reportedly delivered food and other aid to the de facto administration of Afghanistan.
Taking into account the principles of Islamic solidarity, the IOFS Secretariat is mobilizing financial resources from the OIC Member States to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people from the beginning of 2022 by opening a dedicated bank account for this, with the expectation that they generously donate to implement AFSP without delay.
However, while waiting for generous donations from all concerned, the IOFS took the initiative to implement on its own an immediate response project and to enter into a partnership with Bondh-E-Shams Company to obtain six (06) Oasis Water Cleaning Boxes for several water scarce villages in Afghanistan. The “Oasis Box” is an innovative all-in-one solar-powered water extraction and filtration system that is the only solution of its kind that brings the pump, filtration system, and storage tank into a single modular unit that’s easy to install, cost-efficient and transportable: perfectly suited for distant, water-scarce villages.
For more details, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6V2myZHbKY.
For installation for the aforesaid boxes, the IOFS welcomed the partnership of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), which took responsibility for delivery and the Ministry of Agriculture of Afghanistan which selected the villages.
The IOFS is preparing to hold a joint conference with its partners – the IOFS Donor Conference for Humanitarian Food Assistance to Afghanistan, which is still in its planning stages.
As part of its Strategic Plan, the IOFS is prepared to initiate the Flour for Humanity program, which is designed to mitigate the consequences of the impending humanitarian disaster among OIC Member States in general, and, in this case, in Afghanistan. The main idea is for countries in a better situation to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those in need with the help of grain producers and flour suppliers.
Member states are asked to act as donors of the program, as well as suppliers of flour. The recipients of humanitarian aid will be Afghanistan in this pilot project. It should be noted that all decisions on the program will be made by program governing bodies, which will be composed of the representatives of donor member states and the OIC and IOFS Secretariats. The flour suppliers will be determined on the basis of competitive procedures.
Separately, in February 2022, IOFS-COMSTECH announced a fellowship programme for OIC Member States, for less developed countries, including Afghanistan, for the study of regional food security. Under the Memorandum of Understanding with Kazakhstan, the National Agrarian University (KazNARU), and the IOFS will provide fellowship opportunities for Afghani researchers and scientists to build their technical capacity in the fields of food systems and food security governance. The nominations are to be announced within the planned IOFS High-Level Forum on Food Security on June 8-9, 2022 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The IOFS is convinced that a demonstration of active solidarity among OIC Member States and the determination to commit to providing humanitarian assistance in this very difficult and critical period in the history of this country should be a top priority.
The author is Abdula Manafi Mutualo, a Senior Liaison Officer of IOFS Secretariat.