Famine looming amid Central American drought: UN

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Rome, Aug 24 (IANS/AKI) Recent drought has laid waste to over 280,000 hectares of beans and maize in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, putting millions at risk of hunger in the coming months, two Rome-based UN agencies warned on Friday.

The possible arrival of an El Nino extreme weather event before the end of the year could further worsen the precarious food and nutrition security of vulnerable rural communities in the region, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN World Food Programme also warned.

According to the International Research Institute/Climate Prediction Centre (IRI/CPC), there was a 60 percent chance of a new El Nino between September and December 2018, FAO and WFP said.

The months of June and July registered lower-than-average rainfall and drier-than-average conditions, which affected the first and principal crop cycle in Central America, according to the two UN agencies.

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“Total or partial loss of crops means that subsistence farmers and their families will not have enough food to eat or sell in coming months,” FAO and WFP said in their joint statement.

The second crop cycle, which usually makes up for the shortfalls of the first harvest, takes place in November. Even if the El Nino turns out to be a weak one, it will have “a significant impact” the second harvest, the UN agencies said.

Maize and beans, the main staple foods, have been the crops most affected by the drought, according to the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which have reported losses of 281,000 hectares of these staples, on which of their populations depend for their food and nutrition, the agencies reported.

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“These losses will increase the cost of these foods for the entire population,” FAO and WFP stated.

The Honduran government declared an emergency in the Dry Corridor this month, where it is estimated that 82 percent of the maize and bean crops have been lost, while the government of El Salvador put out a red alert in July.

“Just when rural communities were recovering from the 2014 drought and the El Nino phenomenon of 2015 – the strongest recorded in recent history – a new drought is affecting the most vulnerable again,” said Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for America and the Caribbean.

“We need to redouble our efforts and reach more rural communities,” Barreto said.

The UN is especially worried about the effect of this new drought on migration given the danger that thousands of people will struggle to feed and maintain their families, the agencies said

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–IANS/AKI

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