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World Food Program Makes Appeal for East Timor Drought Victims

The World Food Program, WFP, is appealing for nearly $3 million to assist more than 100,000 drought victims in East Timor. The World Food Program says that, because of a severe drought, this year's harvest of corn in East Timor is 30 percent less than normal.

WFP Spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, said the situation is especially bad in the northern part of the country. "People are selling what they have - their animals, everything - to able to feed themselves," she said. "And, they have reduced the numbers of meals per day to two, even one meal per day and they are not eating enough. They are eating roots, a kind of porridge made of palm leaves. Something where they do not have the protein or the cereal that they need. So, the situation is quite worrying."

Ms. Berthiaume said her agency needs to get emergency food assistance to about 110,000 drought victims quickly.

She said people will be particularly vulnerable during the so-called hunger season, which falls between November and March. She explains this is the period of the year just before the next harvest when peoples' food stocks are practically exhausted.

She said prospects for the future planting season are worsening, with people eating the seeds meant for planting.

She said East Timor had already been suffering from chronic food shortages, with 40 percent of the population eating less than is considered healthy and malnutrition among children rising.