Switzerland has responded to urgent calls from the United Nations and sent an emergency cash package to help victims of a sustained drought in Central America.This content was published on September 6, 2001 - 19:02
The Swiss Development Agency announced it had sent SFr600,000 to help the estimated 1.5 million people in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras who are affected by the severe drought.
The lack of rain has had a devastating affect on this year's crop yields, reportedly destroying more than 27,000 hectares of basic grain crops in Honduras alone and affecting over 12,000 peasant families there.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said that El Salvador's worst drought in two decades has "wiped out farmers' entire crop in the hardest-hit areas and left an estimated 200,000 people in urgent need of food aid."
SFr400,000 of the Swiss aid package will go to the WEF in order to buy and distribute badly needed cereals.
The development agency said the remainder of the funds have been sent to its co-ordination office in Nicaragua, money that is earmarked to buy seeds for farmers.
Approximately 300,000 people, or roughly half of those in need, are receiving food assistance from the UN food programme and other organisations.
Pictures of emaciated peasants have resulted in a flood of sympathy for those affected in the region. "Eighty per cent of the Guatemalan population live in poverty," the country's president, Alfonso Portillo, told reporters in response to criticisms his government was not doing enough to ease the crisis. "It's no secret."
The Swiss Development Agency said it has allocated a budget of SFr3 million to Central America this year to help those in need.
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