UN launches training program to help Somalis adapt to COVID-19 impacts

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched radio training programs in Somalia to help the Horn of Africa nation better manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO said the new distance learning and extension service complements its cash and livelihood support, for the most vulnerable farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks in Somalia.

More than 30 episodes on good agricultural practices, livestock, nutrition and fishery will be broadcast.

The new initiative is part of the FAO’s e-platform for mobile money and livelihood assistance in the country, said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO representative in Somalia.

“We couldn’t wait for the situation to improve in order to provide this training to the most vulnerable people we serve,” Peterschmitt said in a statement issued in Mogadishu on Thursday.

He said smallholder and vulnerable rural households need to acquire new information every day, so as to face social, economic and environmental challenges.

Peterschmitt said the training is an integral part of the FAO’s humanitarian assistance in Somalia, which should not only aim to push vulnerable people out of hunger, but also to get them immediately back into production.

According to the FAO, radio programs are launched amid floods, a desert locust upsurge and the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when 2.2 million people are expected to experience severe hunger in Somalia through September.

“This number could increase as the dry season progresses,” warns the latest Food Security Outlook update issued by its Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit and Famine Early Warning Network.

This first long-distance radio training program involves producing and broadcasting stations across Somalia.

Ezana Kassa, coordinator of the FAO Emergency Program in Somalia, said accurate and reliable information in these times of “triple crisis” for Somalia can be life-saving.

He said the training programs will help the targeted communities enhance productivity, thus having an immediate positive effect on food security, while mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“This initiative also comes as an anticipatory measure in case the COVID-19 situation gets worse again and new restrictions and limitations to movement and gathering are put in place throughout a second wave,” Kassa said. “In that case, we are ready to scale it up in order to fully replace the on-site training by distance learning within a very short timeframe.”

This new batch of radio programs follows the collaboration of the FAO with Radio Ergo in a nine-episode series to sensitize communities affected by desert locusts.

Experts say radio is the most far-reaching channel of communication to reach the most remote and rural areas in Somalia.

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