Vietnam calls for $48.5 million to respond to worst drought in 100 years

By An Hong   April 27, 2016 | 11:34 am GMT+7
Vietnam calls for $48.5 million to respond to worst drought in 100 years
Prolonged drought, accompanied with a decrease in groundwater levels, has resulted in the most extensive saltwater intrusion in 90 years, affecting about 2 million people in the southern and central regions of Vietnam. Photo by A.X

Vietnam has for the first time called on the international community to support a $48.5 million emergency response plan to address the worsening drought in the country.

Vietnam is faced with the worst drought in almost a century, according the United Nation (UN), which has seriously affected about two million people living in the southern and central regions of the country.

A joint rapid assessment, carried out by the Vietnamese government, the UN and non-governmental organizations in March, estimated that in the 18 most severely affected provinces in the country, as many as two million people have no access to clean water and 1.1 million are in need of food aid.

More than 60,000 women and children are already malnourished, and about 1.75 million people have lost their livelihoods as the drought worsens, according to the assessment.

In the southern Mekong Delta, the prolonged drought, accompanied by a decrease in groundwater levels, has resulted in the most extensive saltwater intrusion in 90 years.

As a result of the drought and salinity, more than 400,000 hectares of crops have been affected with varying degrees of productivity loss, and another 25,900 hectares have not been planted at all, said the assessment.

Since late 2015, the Vietnamese government has provided 5,223 tons of relief food for three drought-affected regions and allocated VND1.081 trillion ($48 million) for national drought relief efforts. Two million cubic meters of water has been delivered by truck and 630,000 doses of Chloramine B and 400,000 Aquatabs have been provided for water-insecure households.

The Vietnamese government has so far made a strong and proactive response but this is a rare event which needs special support from the international community, said UN Resident Coordinator Pratibha Mehta on Tuesday.

"We look forward to working with the government to help meet the most immediate needs of those worst affected," she said.

Since the launch of the emergency response plan, international donors and partners have pledged $7.34 million, said Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat, adding that Vietnam is still in need of an additional $41 million for immediate drought relief efforts.

“I believe that the international community will help Vietnam and any other countries that are struggling with natural disasters,” said Phat. He stressed that the government, under any circumstances, will not allow water and food shortages to happen.

According to the UN, the current El Nino is one of the strongest on record affecting an estimated 60 million people across Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific.

A global call for support and action for 22 affected countries, including Vietnam, was also announced in Geneva on Tuesday.