Tajikistan

Tajikistan on verge of serious food shortage

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Tajikistan is facing a serious food shortage as a result of drought, according to a Federation team assessing the impact of drought in the Central Asia region.
"Food shortages will arise in the next three months" says Roger Bracke, team leader for the Federation's assessment and coordination (FACT) team. "We have to take action right now to set up a system for widespread food distribution, to get the food in country before the harsh winter halts all logistic actions. That is the emergency. It is very real."

During their first two days in the capital, Dushanbe, the team held discussions with senior government officials and with a number of non-governmental organizations.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this year's wheat harvest is estimated at 236,000 metric tonnes, only half the tonnage harvested in 1999. Cereal production will be sufficient to meet national requirements for only three months.

Around three million people - almost half the population of Tajikistan - will soon be facing severe problems getting access to food, according to a recent assessment by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization.

With existing food pledges amounting to 74,000 metric tonnes, and anticipated commercial imports of 400,000 tonnes, the uncovered food gap for 2000/01 is projected at 313,000 tonnes.

Within the past month, the price of wheat flour in local markets has increased significantly. Prices for other major food products such as meat, sugar, rice and oil are going up as well. Prices are not affordable for a substantial part of population, especially taking into account the loss of income most farmers are facing because of the reduced harvest.

At present, the option of a full scale emergency operation is being considered by the FACT team, in coordination with WFP and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). During the coming week, the FACT team, accompanied by the relief coordinator for the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan, will visit the most affected areas in the south of the country - Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube - where 840,000 people are in critical need of food assistance, and the Leninabad oblast in the north where 600,000 people are drought-affected.

"We will be deciding how the Federation can best assist the Tajikistan Red Crescent to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable who live under the real threat of oncoming famine," says Roger Bracke. "By working together with local Red Crescent branches in the assessment and relief operation, we can also use the opportunity to develop the capacity of these branches."