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Afghanistan: UN rushes aid as livestock sector hit hard by extreme cold

Afghanistan: UN rushes aid as livestock sector hit hard by extreme cold

Young shepherds in northern Afghanistan
The harshest winter weather conditions in nearly three decades has devastated Afghanistan's livestock – with over 300,000 animals dying since last December – and the United Nations is providing support by sending some 80 tons of feed to the hardest-hit farmers.

Nearly 800 people have lost their lives in the extreme cold, and many others, particularly shepherds and their families, have been severely frostbitten and have required emergency amputation, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The situation is very worrying,” said Samuel Kugvei, the agency's acting Representative in Afghanistan. “Livestock are a lifeline for many of the affected households, whose food situation is already precarious.”

Livestock devastation is compounded by high fuel, vegetable oil and cereal prices, further increasing food insecurity, FAO warned.

Together with the country's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, the agency has distributed 20 tons of feed in Herat, one of the provinces most affected, and 60 tons of feed concentrate to farmers in Bamiyan.

The agency is also appealing for mover than $2 million to provide 1,500 tons of feed, as well as vaccines, multi-vitamins and anti-parasitic treatment for the livestock of 50,000 vulnerable families. To date, the European Commission's humanitarian aid division, known as ECHO, has pledged $500,000 for 500 tons of feed concentrate.

FAO also warned that high global prices of wheat, the main staple, combined with the low purchasing power of a large portion of the population mean that Afghanistan's commercial import requirement this year of 550,000 tons of wheat may be met.

But according to early forecasts, prospects for this year's wheat crop are favourable, with heavy snowfall last month making up for below-normal precipitation earlier this season.