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Tajikistan: Hunger to Replace Cold and Darkness

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Tajikistan, Development, Economics & Business, Environment, Food, Humanitarian Response

Tajikistan is a small country with big problems. The nation, particularly the rural population, is still suffering from energy crisis, but yet another crisis is going to embrace it very soon. This time it's about food.

Neweurasia reports [1] that Barki Tojik – the country's electricity monopolist – promises to solve the problem with energy by the end of this month. However, the problem with electricity is being solved naturally – a warmer season has come and now there is enough water to move the turbines and generate electricity on hydropower stations.

However, this does not ease the social stress, because the food crisis seems to be harder to overcome. Neweurasia links [2] to a report by The Christian Science Monitor, saying that this spring's expected humanitarian crisis may spark unrest in this volatile region:

About 260,000 Tajiks are in need of immediate food assistance, and up to 2 million face starvation by winter’s end if they don’t receive swift help, according to the UN. The country urgently needs supplies of portable generators, kerosene stoves, food, blankets and warm clothes.

Obviously this crisis has not come out all of a sudden. According to UN figures, about two-thirds of Tajikistan’s people have to subsist on less than $2 per day, while 41 per cent lack regular access to clean drinking water.

At the same time, Tajikistan is not the only one to have shortage of food products, reports [3] GreenIcebergs. It is one of many to feel the impact of food and fuel crisis through the globe. Recently the United Nations World Food Program reported that it would need half a billion dollars more this year to fulfill its projects i 2008:

The countries it identified as being directly impacted were Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Haiti, Djibouti and Gambia, Tajikistan, Togo, Chad, Benin, Myanmar, Cameroon, Niger, Senegal, Yemen and Cuba.

This year's severe winter is one of the main causes of the upcoming food crisis, as extreme weather has affected spring crops and losses are expected to affect important export crops making the situation even more devastating for Tajikistan.

Neweurasia also reports [4] that this time the winter was so unexpectedly cold that the farmers could barely save their harvest:

Farmers cannot save what they reaped last year, so they try to sell it for giveaway prices as quickly as possible. These products – mostly fruits and vegetables – were supposed to be sold in spring. Cold winter killed most of the crops planted last fall, including grape and other fruit gardens that could not survive in this abnormal cold. Also, according to the official statistics, Tajikistan lost more than 700 hectares of potato fields. Beating in mind that more than 93 percent of the territory of Tajikistan is covered by mountains, this is a really substantial area.

Intellibrifs reviews [5] an IWPR article, also raising the issue of food deficit in the country:

Representatives of the World Food Program and the World Health Organization have cautioned that livestock and poultry have suffered severely during the winter, estimating that production of milk and eggs could experience a 50 percent drop-off. In addition, many Tajiks are grappling with the initial stage of hunger, in which they are spending more than ever on food, but eating less, with many eating only once a day.

Feoline opines [6] on the BBC report saying that Tajikistan is already facing the catastrophe:

It's not just the rural population that's being affected, but people in the cities too … and we only expect the food situation to deteriorate. This is already a real emergency.

The Tajik government has always something or someone to blame for its failure to act adequately and avoid crises. We all can blame the cold winter, the governments of the neighboring countries or the opposition, but things do not get better if we do so…