When last March Yerlan Baidaulet, the Director General of the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS), nominated me to attend the 18th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition – DIHAD, I did not understand the importance of our presence at the event, as I could not foresee that we would meet a key actor for the successful undertaking of our official humanitarian visit to Afghanistan, which was held on April 16-19.
In fact, in Dubai, one of our several meetings was with Hamza Faruk, the CEO of Bondh E Shams, a Pakistani company that produces water cleaning and filtration machines called “Oasis Box.” The IOFS took the unprecedented decision to purchase six of such machines to be handed to Afghan authorities for installation at water-scarce villages and instructed other colleagues and myself to prepare for an official visit to Kabul. The IOFS was the first institution of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to implement a tangible humanitarian project through the distribution of Oasis Boxes, which may be expanded to wider parts of Afghanistan, as well as to other OIC Member States.
During the three-day visit, the IOFS delegation was received in different bilateral meetings. The meetings were dedicated to the need to strengthen relations between the IOFS and Afghan-concerned Ministries, particularly on matters that are relevant to food security, the agricultural development of the country and the involvement of their experts in such efforts, including by participating in IOFS-initiated events on food security governance, gene banks, and other bodies, as well as the commitment to implementing the Food Security Reserve within the OIC mandated framework. In all the meetings, the IOFS Director General emphasized that Afghanistan remained one of the highest priorities, particularly for projects being implemented within the framework of the Afghanistan Food Security Program (AFSP), as mandated by the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the Situation in Afghanistan, held on Dec. 19, 2021, in Islamabad, Pakistan.
It is important to note that the visit served also for the IOFS to sign, for the first time, a Memorandum of Understanding with a United Nations Agency, which, in this case, was the World Food Program (WFP) for bilateral cooperation on joint projects in Afghanistan, especially the aforementioned AFSP.
In the aftermath of the unfortunate deadly earthquake that shocked Afghanistan on June 24, the calls for humanitarian intervention in that country increased. The IOFS, therefore, welcomed the generous contribution of Kazakhstan within the AFSP framework, in the amount of $100,000, to ensure that the IOFS would implement one of its immediate response projects, which is related to the supply of wheat flour to Afghanistan. All efforts are being taken now to enable the IOFS to successfully dispatch the first train with 2,000 tons of wheat flour worth $1 million as part of the AFSP.
It is worth mentioning that during the IOFS High-Level Forum on Food Security on June 8-9 in Almaty, the IOFS announced the winners of the fellowship program for the OIC Member States, for studying food security and agriculture, jointly implemented with the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) for less developed countries, including Afghanistan. Under the Memorandum of Understanding with the Kazakhstan National Agrarian Research University (KazNARU). Afghan researchers and scientists are expected to build their technical capacity in the fields of food systems and food security governance.
The IOFS is convinced that the demonstration of active solidarity of OIC Member States with the needy Afghan people and the determination to commit ourselves to providing humanitarian assistance in this very difficult and critical period in the history of the country should be a top priority and needs to be implemented without any further delay.
The author is Abdula Manafi Mutualo, the IOFS Senior Liaison Officer.