WFP to help one million Tajiks survive a devastating drought

News and Press Release
Originally published
ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme today announced a major emergency operation to help more than one million people in Tajikistan who are threatened with famine because of one of the worst droughts in decades.
Under the new operation, WFP will bring about 126,000 metric tons of food aid into Tajikistan over the next nine months at a cost of US $62 million.

"The dramatic decline in cereal production in Tajikistan because of a devastating drought will affect nearly 50 percent of the 6.2 million people in the country. About 1.2 million people will face a desperate situation with virtually no employment opportunities or other sources of income to purchase food from the market," said WFP Tajikistan Country Director Bouchan Hadj-Chikh.

The drought, which aggravates the harsh economic conditions of a country that is still recovering from a gruelling five-year civil war, has brought cereal production in Tajikistan down to only 236,000 tons this year, 46 percent less than in 1999.

"Even after estimated commercial imports of some 400,000 tons, Tajikistan will remain unable to meet the annual domestic needs of about one million tons. If a deficit of this magnitude is not met, it may result in serious and widespread problems including loss of life and even renewed civil strife," Hadj-Chikh warned.

The drought comes at a time when severe financial constraints are limiting the government's capacity to purchase wheat from the international market. The price of wheat in Kazakhstan, the main regional grain exporter, has risen by 15 percent since last year. Wheat supplies from neighbouring Uzbekistan, also suffering from the drought, will certainly decline.

"We are hoping that donor governments will positively respond to the food needs of the most vulnerable people in Tajikistan. Without such support, WFP will be unable to help them and conditions could further deteriorate," he said.

Tajikistan is one of several countries crippled by a drought that has ravaged Central Asia this year, killing livestock and scorching farm and pasture lands. And according to a report on global drought issued by WFP in August, the agency's drought requirements more than doubled in 2000.

WFP has been active in Tajikistan for the last seven years, providing over 116,000 tons of food assistance to those most affected by the civil war.

WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999, WFP fed more than 89 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

For more information please contact:

Bouchan Hadj-Chikh, WFP Tajikistan Country Director
Tel. +992 372 243950
Sat +873 761 351997
E-mail Bouchan.Hadj-Chikh@wfp.org

Khaled Mansour, WFP Regional Information Officer
Tel. +92 51 227 1265
Mobil +92 300 500989
E-mail wfp.org

Heather Hill, WFP/Rome,
Tel. +39-06-6513-2253,