A prolonged drought is severely threatening the food security, health and nutritional status of children and adults in the Bolivia's southeastern El Chaco region. The acute nature of this year's drought compounds the effects of years of drought in the region and put the region at risk of a major humanitarian crisis.
According to two rapid assessments conducted by FAO, UNICEF, WFP and Government institutions in July and August of 2004, the drought is affecting an estimated 180,000 people, of whom , 26,000 are children under five years of age living in rural areas. Seven of El Chaco's sixteen municipalities are considered to be the most affected and in need of urgent assistance to avert further damage: Boyuibe, Camiri, Charagua, Cuevo, Gutierrez, Machareti and Huacaya. In these municipalities, an average of 93% of the maize crop, the population's main food source, has been lost. Food availability is of major concern now and is expected to worsen until the next harvest in May 2005. With 85% percent of affected families living mainly on rain-fed subsistence agriculture, the drought has undermined their ability to produce enough food to meet daily requirements. The drought has also caused a situation of limited access to safe drinking water, forcing people to risk the spread of disease by using the same source of water as their livestock.
By the time of the two rapid assessments, 65% of those interviewed had consumed their food stocks and 80% of the affected population did not have seeds for the next sowing season. As a result, affected families have resorted to reducing the number of daily meals and heads of households are increasingly migrating in search of a means to mitigate the situation, ultimately exacerbating family vulnerability.
The UN Disaster Management Team's (DMT) Joint Flash Appeal seeks US$ 1.8 million to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable persons in the drought-affected areas of El Chaco for a period of seven months (1 November 2004 through to 31 May 2005). The largest part of the appeal is dedicated to delivering food in order to prevent further deterioration of people's living conditions. The UN team in Bolivia will also implement programs to increase the supply of clean water to families in need, to quickly identify disease outbreaks and to develop a sustainable agricultural plan for El Chaco in consultation with Bolivian authorities.
For further information, Brian Grogan 212 963-1143 (OCHA NY), Elizabeth Byrs +41 22 917 2653 (OCHA Geneva)
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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