US UN to Help Drought Stricken Areas in Armenia

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–"Though the severe drought has hit crops in Armenia and is expected to lead to widespread livestock feeding problems–Armenia will not face famine," agricultural minister Zaven Gevorgian told reporters Wednesday.

The first step in helping overcome the consequences of the drought has been made by the government of the US. The US Agriculture Department is completing distribution of 1,500 tons of seeds to the most affected areas in northern Armenian provinces of Shirak–Tavush and Lori–which makes only about 10% of the overall demand for seeds.

Today Gevorgian is expected to meet with the head of World Bank Caucasian Division Judie O’Connor to discuss allocation of a $5 million loan that will go for preparation of spring sowing. The government of France said it would donate 6,000 tons of flour. The government of Greece has pledged 10,000 tons of wheat and the government of Russia’said it would donate 5,000 tons of seeds and 10,000 tons of forage.

Meantime the UN World Food Program has begun the distribution of an extra 20,000 tons of food to the population in the rural areas of Armenia that have suffered most from this year’s severe drought–a UN aid official said Wednesday.

Peter Erhardy–a WFP deputy country director–told reporters in Yerevan that wheat flour–cooking oil and lentils are being primarily distributed to farmers in the country’s northern regions which are heavily dependent on rainfall. He warned that the amount of the aid made available so far by Western governmen’s and relief agencies is highly insufficient for coping with effects of Armenia’s worst drought in decades. "I want to underline that any kind of agricultural assistance to the farmers is even more necessary than humanitarian help," he said.

The drought has had a devastating effect on range vegetation–crucial in the annual feed cycle of livestock and may lead to widespread under-nutrition in livestock–which in turn may result in a significant increase in mortality in the coming winter months–sale and slaughtering of livestock," the minister said adding that securing livestock with forage remains a priority task.

The minister also said that he had appealed to the US ambassador in Armenia requesting assistance from the US government. The US government may soon discuss the possibility of allocating 30,000 tons of forage–half of what is needed. According to the minister–if all these measures are implemented–half of the losses incurred will be restored.

"The government is taking steps to liquidate the consequences of the drought which inspires hopes that Armenia will not face famine in winter," said the minister.

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