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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Honduras declares drought emergency
Boy walking through hot forest
The rains have failed throughout Central America
By Mike Lanchin in Central America

Honduras has declared a state of emergency in eight provinces where thousands of farmers face disaster due to a two-month-long drought that is devastating crops across Central America.

The Honduran Government says it has already begun co-ordinating the shipment of food aid through the United Nations World Food Programme for the families of an estimated 20,000 farmers affected by the drought.

Boy in mud of lake
Thousands of poor families are at risk
According to the World Food Programme, as many as a million people could be affected by the food crisis across four Central American countries hit by a severe lack of rainfall.

Aid workers say this is the worst drought in Central America since 1997, when the freak weather phenomenon known as El Nino played havoc with the normal rainy season.

Subsistence

The six-month-long wet season usually begins in late May, when tens of thousands of impoverished subsistence farmers across the region plant their yearly crop of the staple corn and beans.

Many plant a second time in August, but only if they can secure further credit at the bank for seeds and fertilisers.

In Honduras, the country worst affected by the current drought, farmers in eight provinces are reported to have lost almost all their first harvest.

People rescue possessions from flood
Hondurans struggle with floods, now drought
One aid worker told me that all these farmers can do now is pray for rainfall in time for the second planting next month.

Meanwhile, with food becoming increasingly short, many families are beginning to sell off their few animals or use up their limited funds to buy food.

Emergency

It is a similar story in neighbouring El Salvador and Nicaragua, where the authorities are debating whether to declare a food emergency.

The Salvadorean Government this week began distributing seeds to farmers in the arid eastern region of the country, where it has not rained properly since late May.

And in Nicaragua, the crisis has been compounded by the collapse of several coffee farms, blighted by low world prices and heavy debts at the bank.

That has caused the exodus of hundreds of peasants who normally earn a living on the coffee plantations but who are now drifting into the cities in search of food and jobs.

See also:

22 Jul 01 | Media reports
Central America alarmed at crop failure
21 Jul 01 | Americas
Central America 'faces food crisis'
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