Central America: More food aid needed for drought victims
WFP's emergency food reserves in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are not sufficient to cover the needs of the estimated three-quarters of a million Central Americans currently facing serious food shortages due to a three-month drought.
August 1, 2001 - WFP urgently requires more food aid to help an estimated 775,798 people who risk hunger due to Central America's ongoing drought, the worst natural disaster to hit the region since Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
After visiting the worst-hit areas of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the Agency estimates up to 1.4 million farmers and their families are running short of food, with 775,798 facing severe food security problems.
"Right now we can only assist a little over half of the vulnerable population" WFP regional director Francisco Roque Castro.
While WFP is already distributing food aid to 405,000 people, its regional director for Latin America and the Carribean Francisco Roque Castro admits there is not enough to go round.
"Right now we can only assist a little over half of the vulnerable population most affected by this food crisis," said Roque Castro.
"Our hands are tied because we do not have the resources required to help the rest of the vulnerable population urgently in need of assistance."
In the worst-hit areas of Honduras, for example, WFP has targeted 20,500 families, but current resources limit the Agency's distribution to meeting the needs of just 4,500 families.
Likewise, existing WFP food stocks in El Salvador are only sufficient to cover the food needs of 200,000 of the worst-hit people for the next month.
WFP launched an international plea for food aid in July but, with the drought now entering its third month, Roque Castro admits the initial response has been disappointing.
The Agency calculates that it needs at least 16,500 metric tons of food aid to feed the most vulnerable over the next three months.
Lack of rainfall has forced thousands of farmers throughout the region to to watch their major subsistence crops, such as corn, beans and maize, wither and die:
- In Nicaragua, farmers interviewed by WFP food monitors admitted they had lost almost 100 percent of their maize crop, leaving them with no food supply until December.
- In Honduras, the government declared a national food emergency after estimates that some 317,000 small- and medium-sized producers of basic grains will be hit by the drought.
- In El Salvador, crop failures have worsened food shortages initially provoked by the country's double earthquake tragedy in January and February.
To make matters worse, many of the worst-affected farmers are small-holders who cultivate self-consumption crops of beans and corn on less than one or two hectares of land to meet the immediate food needs of their families.
Such farmers have already seen their food reserves decimated in the struggle to see off a series of natural disasters which have hit Central America in recent years.
In 1997, they lost their crops to another drought caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon. A year later, many saw their homes and crops swept away by Hurricane Mitch.
Without additional help from the international community, WFP fears that these same families will start start selling off their main assets to buy food. Lack of food could also force families to withdraw their children from school or use seeds for consumption, jeopardising the next harvest.
Counting the cost
|Number of people severely affected by drought||791,000|
|Number of people to receive WFP food||90,925|
|Number of people severely affected by drought||470,000|
|Number of people to receive WFP food||44,000|
|Number of people severely affected by drought||450,000|
|Number of people to receive WFP food||200,000|
|Number of people to receive WFP food||63,510|