Drought in Uzbekistan: baking bread once again

Published: 23 October 2002 0:00 CET

Alyona Suslova, in Karakalpakstan

For the first time in three years I saw children swimming in the irrigation canals of Karakalpakstan. The rains have come this year, and local communities have thrown themselves into cultivating their rapidly expanding cotton, wheat and rice plantations. After three lean years, bread made from local grain is again being baked in the clay ovens.

Tleubai Uteuliev, a mechanic in the village of Kulakhmet in Kanlykul province, says he has been repairing his old tractor since June in the hope that this year they both will be back in business.

"People have stopped leaving the village in search of a job", he says, echoing the situation reported by Red Crescent volunteers across western Uzbekistan."We've got enough work now."

Tleubai is one of 1,100 people visited by the Red Crescent Society of Uzbekistan (RCSU) since May, 2002, as they collect statistical data and assess the continued impact of the drought on people's health and livelihoods.

This monitoring is a key element of an early warning system being run in the five worst affected regions which will allow the RCSU to monitor the situation, assess possible needs for further humanitarian intervention, and identify the type of assistance to be delivered to the affected communities.

This interviewing process follows a successful six-month emergency response operation, which involved the delivery of medicines and water filters to 30 hospitals and of supplementary food assistance and health education to communities in the provinces of Chimbai and Kegeili.

Even if there has been a tangible impovement this summer, with water levels in the main Amu-Darya River rising, much more rainfall will be needed to remove the salt deposits that have carpeted the fertile soil during the years of drought, and which may yet frustrate people's hopes of a good harvest.

Moreover, inadequate water distribution systems, poor hygiene practices and a lack of basic health awareness have caused a rapid increase in water-borne diseases, a situation aggravated by almost 100 per cent anaemia rates.

To enable it to respond effectively to these and other drought-related problems, the RCSU has identified three main areas for possible future intervention: emergency management that focuses on early warning system and disaster response training; community-based health education and capacity building.

Related Links:

Drought in Uzbekistan: Appeals, Reports and News Stories
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