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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Rajasthan
"These families are pastoralists watching their cattle and sheep weaken"
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Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
India drought spreads

The authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan are appealing for international aid as a drought that has parched neighbouring India devastates their crops and livestock.

They say it is the worst drought for a century.

Officials in both countries fear that the problem will worsen this summer as little rain is forecast.

The worst affected areas have not had rain for up to eight years.

Large parts of western and central India, particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan states bordering Pakistan, have also been affected by severe drought, raising the spectre of acute hunger that could affect an estimated 50 million people.

Drought landscape
Drought-related hunger could affect 50m people

Experts from the international relief organisation, Oxfam, visited Pakistan's worst-hit districts earlier this month and found that about 90% of livestock there had died over the past three years.

Pakistani officials say almost two thirds of the country's largest province of Baluchistan, and the Thar desert area in adjoining Sindh province, have been hit by the drought, forcing people in some areas to migrate.

In Afghanistan, the worst drought has hit the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan and Nimroz.

The United Nations recently visited southern Afghanistan and described the situation as "very serious" but not yet critical.

It found some areas had lost almost all the rain-fed wheat crop, half of the irrigated crop and up to 80% of livestock.

A senior government official in Baluchistan said the drought had affected about two million people out of the province's population of 6.5 million, as well as 10 million head of livestock.

The most seriously affected Afghans are reported to be livestock owners, specially the Koochi nomads, and farmers.

'Brotherly' appeal

Afghanistan's Provincial Relief Commissioner Abbas Shah is seeking aid worth 2.5 billion rupees ($50m) and has appealed for all national and international donors and "brotherly countries" to help.

Pakistan's authorities have been distributing food in the country's worst-hit areas for several weeks, but officials say people are migrating as wells became dry.

There is no exact estimate of drought-related deaths in Pakistan but officials say dozens of people have died.

Local officials said people had started migrating on a large scale from drought-hit areas in eight districts of Baluchistan.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Rajasthan says families are watching their cattle die in the heat, and the price of animal carcasses is falling because there are so many.

Although the Indian Government says it has relief supplies of water and fodder on the way to drought areas, our correspondent says there has not been enough to stem the tide of deaths.

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Paying the price
27 Apr 00 | South Asia
Oxfam issues drought warning
26 Apr 00 | South Asia
India dismisses drought fears
27 Apr 00 | South Asia
In pictures: India's drought
27 Apr 00 | South Asia
Severe drought threatens Pakistan
01 May 00 | South Asia
Afghan drought hits nomads
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