PANAMA CITY – Some 2.3 million people in Central America, mostly subsistence farmers, day labourers and their families, will need food assistance because of significant crop losses due to prolonged drought exacerbated by the current El Niño event, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.
US$75 million is needed to assist food-insecure Central Americans hit by the severe drought, but resources are being depleted, said Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Following government requests, WFP assisted more than 200,000 people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras last year,” said Barreto. “Unfortunately, another dry spell in 2015, this time exacerbated by El Niño, has again caused significant losses during the first crop cycle, the Primera season.”
“This has hit small producers and their families who were struggling to recover from the previous year’s drought, and the number of people in need may increase soon,” he added. “Consequently, we are aiming to reach 550,000 people during this season.”
During the past two years, a prolonged dry spell and delayed rains prevented many subsistence farmers from planting and caused crops losses in the Dry Corridor of Central America, stretching from Guatemala to Nicaragua.
In Central America, more than 65 percent of households in the Dry Corridor had no food stocks left at the start of the 2015 Primera season, according to a WFP assessment in September.
The latest forecasts indicate a 100 percent probability that the current El Niño event – which has been active since last March –will continue through December, and it will likely persist until early 2016. The current El Niño is one of the strongest on record.
WFP is grateful for critical support from Brazil, Canada, Chile, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Multilateral funds, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and the United States of America.
“However, we estimate that increasing numbers of people will need sustained assistance through the 2016 Primera season – which starts every year in April and ends with the harvest in August and September,” Barreto said. “To continue to help them recover, WFP would need US$75 million at a time when our resources to respond are virtually depleted.”
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
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Alejandro Chicheri, WFP/Latin America and the Caribbean, Tel. 507 317 3900, Mob. 507 6671 5355
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Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel. +44 20 72409001, Mob. +44 7968 008474
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