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Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Appeal for Afghan drought victims

Livestock are being abandoned in drought areas
The World Food Programme says hundreds of thousands of people in southern Afghanistan need urgent assistance because of a severe drought in the area.

"There are no walking skeletons yet," said Mike Sackett, country director of the World Food Programme (WFP) for Afghanistan.

There is a clear need for drinking water, health services and other technical support

Mike Sackett of WFP

"But without an adequate response, thousands of Afghans in the southern provinces will face a merciless summer after having lost almost all their rain-fed wheat crops and up to 80% of their livestock due to the lack of precipitation," he said in a statement released in neighbouring Pakistan.

Mr Sackett was speaking after a three-day visit to the stricken provinces of Zabul and Kandahar last week.

He said the WFP planned to feed more than 400,000 people for the next 12 months, distributing some 30,000 tonnes of food.

However, he said they would only be able to feed the most needy.

"There is a clear need for drinking water, health services and other technical support," he said.

Nomads suffering

The drought-affected area is unlikely to receive any rain before November.

Wells are either dry or their water is receded to an extremely deep level.

In a sign of the worsening situation, hundreds of thousands of nomads have travelled north from drought-ridden winter grazing areas around the southern city of Kandahar.

But the nomads' summer pastures have also failed, and their flocks are being wiped out.

Fields that should be ripe with grain at this time of year have turned yellow.

Animal carcasses are now lying scattered along the roads.

Last year, Afghanistan's domestic wheat production was more than a million tonnes short of its needs, according to the WFP.

This year, the situation could be much worse.

The WFP said that many Afghans were considering moving their families across the border to Pakistan - although the same drought has also struck there.

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01 May 00 | South Asia
Afghan drought hits nomads
10 Apr 00 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan drought
26 Apr 00 | South Asia
Drought hits southern Afghanistan
14 Apr 00 | South Asia
Severe drought in southern Pakistan
30 Apr 00 | South Asia
India drought spreads
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