The United Nations World Food Programme said today it was appealing for an extra US$8.3 million to help feed hundreds of thousands of people in Tajikistan suffering from food shortages amid soaring food and fuel prices, in the coldest winter the country has seen for three decades and an unprecedented energy crisis.
People are spending substantially more on food then before and eating less, much less. We already see many poor families forced to eat just one meal a day.
Tajikistan Country Director Zlatan Milisic
The UN food agency’s request is part of a wider UN joint appeal for US$25 million to help Tajikistan cope with a harsh cold spell that has prompted the government to ration electricity, water and gas supplies in a country where nearly two thirds of the population are classified as poor.
WFP said it would use the funds to purchase and distribute three months worth of emergency food rations for 200,000 of the most vulnerable people, the majority of whom live in rural areas. WFP’s NGO partners will assist an additional 60,000 of the affected people.
Tajikistan’s millions have been forced to spend more of what little money they have on fuel to keep warm in temperatures that have dropped to as low as -25°C. With high food prices – linked to rising global prices – more and more people are unable to buy enough food to sustain themselves and their families.
“People are spending substantially more on food then before and eating less, 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,” said WFP Tajikistan Country Director Zlatan Milisic.
“About 10 percent of the rural population, or 500,000 people, are chronically food insecure and a further 17 percent are very vulnerable to food insecurity,” Milisic said. “This is the last thing they needed.”
WFP already has a two-year operation in Tajikistan – which started in July 2007 – to assist 591,000 people with 37,700 metric tons of food at an overall cost of US$23 million and is already providing regular basic food assistance to around 300,000 to 400,000 persons in 40 districts of Tajikistan.
The operation encourages children to enrol and attend school, supports malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women and tuberculosis patents and helps communities rehabilitate their assets. It also provides emergency aid to victims of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides, mud flows and floods.
Some food from the ongoing operation has already being transferred or loaned for the emergency response. WFP is currently preparing a dispatch of some 1,850 metric tons of food for around 105,000 of the most critically affected people.
“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,” Milisic said.
So far, WFP has received US$2.2 million from the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF). Italy has contributed a further US$216,000, leaving a shortfall of just below US$5.9 million.