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Press Release 99/26

FAO CALLS FOR $9 MILLION IN EMERGENCY AID FOR POOR RURAL FAMILIES IN ALBANIA AND MACEDONIA


Rome, 4 May -- Albanian and Macedonian poor farmers hosting Kosovar refugees urgently need agricultural aid to continue farming activities and to maintain food production, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

FAO launched an appeal to donor governments for $5.5 million for emergency aid to Albania and $3.5 million to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. "It is very important that farmers do not miss the 1999 agricultural seasons to avoid a further deterioration of food supplies," said Anne M. Bauer, Head of the FAO Special Relief Operations Service.

According to recent FAO assessment missions, around 12,000 rural families in Albania and more than 8,000 families in Macedonia are providing food and shelter to refugees driven out of Kosovo.

In Albania, rural families are hosting more than one hundred thousand Kosovar refugees. On the average an Albanian family supports eight, and in some cases even up to 40 refugees. The annual per capita income in Albania is $650, and around 30 percent of the rural population live in poverty. Agricultural technology is poorly developed and productivity is low, according to an FAO Special Alert.

The host families are using their own money and food reserves to meet the essential needs of the refugees, FAO said. Money spent for the support of refugees will not be available for much needed agricultural inputs. This will have serious consequences for the farmers during the spring planting season, when money for fertilizer is needed, and in autumn, when money for wheat seeds will be needed.

Emergency aid should ensure that host families continue farming and if possible, increase their food production, according to FAO. The agency is now providing maize seeds that can still be planted this spring and is calling for the immediate supply of fertilizers, animal feed and backyard poultry for the 12,000 host families. International support will also be needed for the supply of wheat seeds to be planted in autumn.

FAO warned that the current food situation may worsen in Albania "even if the refugees were to return to Kosovo at an early date."

In Macedonia rural families are hosting up to 60,000 Kosovar refugees. FAO is immediately providing seed potatoes and maize seeds for $400,000 and fertilizer for $50,000. Around $3.5 million is urgently needed for the supply of seeds, fertilzers, laying hens, poultry feed and feed for dairy cows.

While the immediate priority is to support the hosting families in Albania and Macedonia who have stretched their own resources to the limit, FAO is also developing plans for agricultural recovery programmes that would support the return of the Kosovars once conditions permit.

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For more information please contact Erwin Northoff, Tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, or on cell phone number (0039) 0 348 2341 145 (The initial zero should be omitted when dialling from outside Italy). E-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org

The appeal is available on the FAO Website at http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/TCD/tco/appeals.htm, the address for the Special Alert is http://www.fao.org/giews/


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