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UN Agency Seeks $8M To Feed Tajiks Hit By Winter

UN agency seeks $8 million to feed Tajiks hit by record low temperatures

22 February 2008 - The harshest winter Tajikistan has seen in decades has prompted a food and energy crisis leaving some 200,000 in need of emergency aid, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today as it appealed for $8.3 million to help those affected.

The funds requested by WFP - part of a wider $25 million joint appeal made earlier this week by the UN - will be used to buy and distribute three months worth of emergency food rations for 200,000 of the most vulnerable people, most of whom live in rural areas. The agency's non-governmental partners will help another 60,000 people.

The onset of the severe weather, including temperatures that have dropped to as low as -25°C, and the energy shortage have prompted the Government to ration electricity, water and gas supplies. Amid rising food and fuel prices, millions have been forced to spend the little money they have to keep warm and have been unable to buy enough food.

WFP Tajikistan Country Director Zlatan Milisic said that while people are spending much more on food than before, they are eating much less. "We already see many poor families forced to eat just one meal a day. Many have already sold their animals and other productive assets."

He noted that about 10 per cent of the rural population, or 500,000 people, are chronically food insecure and a further 17 per cent are very vulnerable to food insecurity. "This is the last thing they needed," he added.

The agency is already providing basic food assistance to some 300,000 to 400,000 people in Tajikistan as part of a two-year operation that began last July. Some food from that programme has been transferred for the current emergency. "As soon as we receive confirmations of new funding, we will be able to advance further emergency relief to the people in need, from the existing stocks," Mr. Milisic said.

WFP has so far received $2.2 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and $216,000 from the Government of Italy, leaving a shortfall of almost $5.9 million for the current crisis.

ENDS

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