UN appeals for $25 million to aid Tajiks facing harshest winter in decades

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 07:33 (UTC +04:00)

The United Nations, together with the Government of Tajikistan, today appealed for $25 million to help humanitarian agencies provide adequate food, water, heat and health care during the most severe winter the country has seen in nearly three decades.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), hydroelectric power stations - the country's main source of energy - are barely producing any electricity, leading to a major disruption in basic services such as heating and water supplies. It is estimated that they will be operating at 40 per cent capacity until spring.

"Such a rapid loss of power in winter on this scale is unprecedented," said Michael Jones, UN Resident Coordinator for Tajikistan. "In the capital city, residents only have electricity for 10 hours per day, leaving them without heat and water for the majority of the time."

The extreme cold, coupled with the energy crisis, have also impacted the food security situation in rural areas, with aid agencies reporting that more than 500,000 people may face food shortages, and at least 260,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance.

If limited food and fuel supplies in rural areas are not replenished, the Government estimates that up to two million people may require food aid through the end of the winter.

OCHA also warns that the unusually heavy snowfall will likely cause flooding and landslides once spring arrives. Therefore, the appeal also includes provisions to assist communities in the event of such situations.

"We are going to need a great deal of support from the international community if we are to meet the needs of the Tajik people now and over the coming months," said Mr. Jones.