The United Nations yesterday appealed for an additional US $ 76.6 million to address the most urgent needs of the drought-affected population of Tajikistan. Three million people, nearly half of the population of the country, are facing the consequences of the worst drought in three-quarters of a century.
Ross Mountain, Assistant Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN said to journalists from various major international media gathered in Dushanbe that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in this land locked country of 6 million in Central Asia.
"The humanitarian situation in Tajikistan epitomizes the consequences of slow moving emergencies such as droughts. Next to Afghanistan, Tajikistan is the hardest hit country in the region", Mountain remarked, adding that these were two among a dozen or so countries affected by the drought. He urged the international community to act immediately to avert a major catastrophe and deaths from famine, not to mention further instability in the region.
Also present at the launch, was the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Tajikistan, Matthew Kahane. He warned that while we haven't yet started to see the typical signs, a famine could well develop in the next two to three months if food, seeds, medicines, clean water isn't delivered promptly. Kahane gave an alarming picture, noting that 1.2 million people are in dire need of food assistance, only 10-15% of the rural population has continuous access to safe drinking water, and water-borne diseases such as malaria and typhoid are on the rise.
The United Nations launched a consolidated appeal valued at US$35 million in November 1999 to address humanitarian needs in 2000. Donor response has been extremely poor with just $4.2 million pledged since it was launched. Speaking to journalists on a media mission organized by the UN to bring attention to the plight of Tajikistan, Mountain stressed that the need for funding has become more critical now than ever before, and that there would be grave humanitarian consequences if the UN is not given the means with which to respond, now.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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