Tajiks Face Severe Shortages of Food

Tajikistan needs food, water and fuel for heating to aid people suffering from the coldest weather in almost 30 years, the United Nations said, making an appeal for $25 million to allow humanitarian agencies to send supplies.

"If limited food and fuel supplies in rural areas are not replenished, the government estimates that up to 2 million people may require food aid through the end of winter,'' the UN said on its web site.

The country has a population of about 7 million people.

Aid agencies estimate that at least 260,000 people in rural areas are in need of immediate food supplies and as many as 500,000 may face shortages in the future, the UN said.

Hydroelectric power stations, the main energy source in the country, are "barely producing electricity,'' the UN said, citing its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. They will be operating at 40 percent of capacity for the coming weeks, it said.

"Such a rapid loss of power in winter on this scale is unprecedented," said Michael Jones, the UN's resident coordinator for Tajikistan. "In the capital city, residents only have electricity for 10 hours per day, leaving them without heat or water for the majority of the time."