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WFP: Burundi Flood Victims at Crisis Point

The World Food Program and seven international non-governmental organizations are issuing a joint appeal for more than $130 million to assist two million flood victims in Burundi until the end of June. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA in Geneva.

World Food Program spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says this is a particularly bad time for this catastrophe in Burundi, which is still emerging from a 13-year civil war that killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced more than a million others.

She says the government is fragile and the immense problems resulting from the present emergency could destabilize the peace process.

She says the World Food Program needs $12 million of the $132 million appeal for immediate food distribution.

"We are really very worried about the situation over there ... All these are bad signs of a possible food crisis in this country if we do not act rapidly," she said. "We are appealing for that amount of money with our partners, the non-governmental organizations because we need that money quickly. It takes a few months to bring food into Burundi."

Burundi is a land locked country with poor roads. Food has to be brought by boat to other countries and trucked from there into Burundi. A job, which Berthiaume says is not easy.

It is still raining heavily in the country. Berthiaume says people are living under harsh conditions and many can only afford to eat one meal a day and some only every other day.

"According to some assessments that we have made, there is probably between 50 and 80 percent of the crops in some parts of the country that have been totally lost because of the flooding," she said. "And, so the situation is desperate in the North and the Central part of the country. The government has declared an emergency status for seven of the 17 provinces in the country."

Berthiaume says due to a lack of funds the World Food Program and its NGO (non-governmental organization) partner Care, have been forced to reduce food rations to 400,000 flood victims. And, for the same reason, she says food rations have been cut by 25 percent to refugees, returnees, and children who benefit from a school-feeding program.