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Saturday, 21 July, 2001, 01:12 GMT 02:12 UK
Central America 'faces food crisis'
Floods threaten Central American economy
Floods are threatening Central American food supplies
By Mike Lanchin

The United Nations World Food Programme has warned of the threat of severe food shortages across Central America as droughts and flash floods devastate vital grain crops.

The UN calculates that as many as one million peasants in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala will soon be facing a crisis situation as their yearly crops fail due to a persistent lack of rainfall.

Hurricane Mitch damage
The area was devastated by Hurricane Mitch three years ago
Along Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, meanwhile, an estimate 9,000 Miskito Indians have lost their rice crops due to sudden flooding of the river earlier this week.

Central America could again be the scene of disaster, just six months after the earthquake in El Salvador and less than three years after Hurricane Mitch devastated vast areas of the region.

International appeal

A World Food Programme spokeswoman told the BBC that the UN organisation has launched an international emergency appeal as the deadly combination of drought and flash floods wreaked havoc on this year's crops.

She said that in conjunction with government and non-governmental agencies the UN is trying to deal with a growing food crisis.

The situation is reported to be worst in rural Honduras as well as in numerous provinces in northern Nicaragua and in eastern El Salvador.

Facing ruin

More than 300,000 smallholding farmers in Honduras have lost their entire crop due to late winter rains.

Most are subsistence farmers totally dependent on the yearly yields.

Their situation will become even more critical in September and October when they normally collect in the harvest.

In Nicaragua while some farmers prayed for rain, thousands of Miskito Indians along the rugged Atlantic coast face ruin because of sudden flash floods.

Peasant migration

Heavy rains over the past week have destroyed their rice plantations along the main river that runs through the remote jungle region, which bore some of the worst damage during Hurricane Mitch.

And as if this is not bad enough the crisis in Nicaragua has been further exacerbated by the rising flow of peasants migrating towards the major cities in search of food and work.

They are the latest victims of the crisis on Central America's poppy farms, crippled by low international prices and heavy debts at the bank.

See also:

19 Sep 99 | Americas
Floods devastate Central America
11 Feb 99 | Americas
Honduras fights back after Mitch
07 Sep 00 | Americas
Flood emergency in El Salvador
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