Drought threatens devastating consequences

The worst drought in Iran since 1964 is affecting some 37 million people, over half the population, and living conditions are worsening day by day, the UN reported on Tuesday. A technical assessment mission, which studied the situation on the ground from 22 July to 8 August, reported that water and sanitation, livestock, crops, forests and woodlands were already “under severe strain”, and predicted that the situation would worsen by early 2001. “With the acute water shortage, over 60 percent of the rural population may be forced to migrate to cities,” a UN press release stated. Vladimir Sakharov of the UN’s Disaster Response Branch, who led the mission in Iran, told journalists at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday that the crisis was down to a severe drought last year having been followed by an extreme one this year.

The drought extended to more than 18 of 28 provinces in Iran, mostly in southeastern and central regions, Tuesday’s report stated. The worst-hit provinces are Sistan Balouchestan and Khorassan, where a majority of 1.4 million refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan are concentrated. More villagers and pastoralists from Afghanistan could be expected to arrive in Iran, and external migration had already been registered, Sakharov said at the Geneva press briefing. The assessment mission found that “the greatest need of the people in affected provinces was for drinking water”, while livestock and agriculture support was also crucial. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has made an urgent appeal for international support, especially with the provision of water trucks because the country’s poor distribution infrastructure is making it exceedingly difficult to move water from areas that have it to those that do not. [for full report, see: http://www.reliefweb.int/w/rwb.nsf]