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Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Drought hits southern Afghanistan
Farmers in field
Farming has completely collapsed in southern Afghanistan
By Kate Clark in Kabul

The World Food Programme says large parts of southern Afghanistan have been severely affected by drought and 60-80% of livestock have died.

A WFP team, which is investigating the drought, said people in the country would need assistance for at least 12 months.

It said in many cases the wheat harvest has failed completely.

It has also urged the Taleban authorities to do more to help their people, rather than spending money on fighting.

Damaged farmland

The WFP team has been assessing southern Afghanistan, where the drought is at its worst.

In normal years it is the country's breadbasket, but farming has collapsed.

Rural families
Families are struggling to survive
The WFP director for Afghanistan, Mike Sackett, said there was virtually no harvest from rain-fed wheat and yields from irrigated wheat were half of what they should be.

He said well-established fruit trees were dead or dying and the team had seen numerous old and fresh carcasses of sheep and goats.

It reckoned that one or two-fifths of the flocks remain alive and numbers are decreasing every day.

Survival struggle

Mr Sackett said people were surviving on what they could scavenge from the wild and on poor quality rice bought on credit from traders.

Families have sent their young men to try and find work in the cities or in Pakistan.

The neediest 10% have already received assistance from WFP.

That aid will have to continue, at least until next year's harvest.

Mr Sackett said the local authorities have waived the land tax this year, but he has asked the Taleban to do more.

At the moment, their main financial priority is waging civil war.

Mr Sackett said he had urged them strongly to switch funds to drought relief.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | South Asia
India dismisses drought fears
20 Apr 00 | South Asia
Fears rise as drought continues
14 Apr 00 | South Asia
Severe drought in southern Pakistan
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