Providing food for the ‘end of the world’
Referred to by locals as ‘The end of the world’, the Murghab District in Tajikistan is known for its sparse plateaus. During the winter season of 2011/12, the distinct lack of vegetation coupled with severe climatic conditions (winter temperatures often fall below -40°C) and the remoteness, and inaccessibility of roads, provoked a situation of extreme food insecurity among 95% of the 14,500 mostly Kyrgyz residents, leading to a state of humanitarian emergency. The main problem during this period was that foodstuffs saved for the 2011/2012 winter season had been eaten long before winter had ended and the severe weather conditions meant that they could not be replenished.
Tajikistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world at risk of increased hunger from higher prices of staples such as wheat due to high levels of demand and high levels of imports. The price of wheat flour increased by 16% from August 2012 and that the trend is set to continue, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), in their Tajikistan Market Price report for September 2012. The rise in international grain prices along with weak yields in Russia and Kazakhstan will continue to put upward pressure on prices in Tajikistan. Fuel prices will rise as the demand for fuel increases in advance of the cold season, and high transportation costs are expected to once again impact food prices in remote areas such as Murghab. Therefore, it is imperative that action to prevent food insecurity takes place as soon as possible.
Prevention is better than cure
Livestock distribution in Murghab will have an immediate effect on beneficiary livelihoods by addressing current and future cases of food insecurity as well as other developmental issues, thereby linking relief, rehabilitation, and development. The distributions are part of a ‘Humanitarian Implementation Plan’ of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department, under a component led by the WFP.
Three sheep and one goat will be provided to 500 of the most vulnerable households and individuals will receive fodder management training. Livestock constitutes the main source of livelihood in the district and it is critical that the livestock that died last winter be replenished and properly reared to assist mitigating food insecurity in this region.
ACTED will continue to work with Murghab residents to address current and future cases of food insecurity. Should other areas of Tajikistan experience such a problem, ACTED has the resources to rapidly conduct assessments and mobilise communities for food and livestock distributions.