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Press Release 00/34 Joint FAO/WFP

MILLIONS OF AFGHANS FACE POTENTIALLY DEADLY FOOD SHORTAGES AS CROPS FAIL DUE TO DROUGHT


Rome, 12 June -- Millions of Afghans have little or no access to food and the situation is expected to worsen in the coming months without additional food aid, according to a joint report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Afghanistan will need to import some 2.3 million tons of cereals, more than double the record amount the country needed last year. WFP is mobilizing 225,000 tons of emergency food aid, which is almost three times the quantity distributed in 1999. It is anticipated that one million tons of cereals will be imported commercially. That will still leave the country with a food deficit of over 1 million tons. "A deficit of this magnitude, if unmet, will inevitably result in widespread serious nutritional consequences and loss of life," the report said.

Urgent assistance is also needed to provide seeds for the upcoming rain-fed wheat season and feed for livestock. Agricultural infrastructure was severely damaged during the civil strife and has deteriorated further in the absence of rehabilitation programs. Irrigation facilities are in urgent need of rehabilitation and will require additional assistance, according to the UN food agencies.

The report, a result of a joint FAO/WFP mission that visited 17 Afghan provinces in different regions of the country, said that rain-fed crops, wheat and barley, had almost totally failed, except in a few pockets in different regions. "The mission thus estimates the 2000 total cereal production at 1.82 million tonnes - down by 44 percent compared to 1999 and by 53 percent compared to 1998."

Millions of Afghans have little or no access to food through commercial markets, just as their access to food through self-production has been severely undermined by drought. The purchasing power of most Afghans has been seriously eroded by the absence of employment opportunities in almost all fields of work. Production of cash crops has declined and most livestock are in poor condition, suffering high rates of mortality.

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The full report is available on the World Wide Web at the following address:

http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/faoinfo/economic/giews/english/alertes/sptoc.htm

For further information contact:

John Riddle
FAO Media Relations
Telephone (39) 06 5705-3259
E-mail: john.riddle@fao.org

Francis Mwanza
WFP
Telephone (39) 06 6513-2623
E-mail: francis.mwanza@wfp.org

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