|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON MOLDOVA DROUGHT
The United Nations system’s response to last year’s drought in Moldova was a “powerful demonstration” of what can be achieved if people and agencies work together, Kaarina Immonen, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in that country told correspondents today at Headquarters.
Moldova, since its independence in 1991, one of the poorest countries in the region, had had a steady economic growth up to 2007, with 4.8 per cent growth in 2006. Difficulties before the 2007 drought included a high increase in energy prices and a ban on wine exports to the Russian Federation. The country’s economy was based on the agricultural sector, which provides livelihood to two thirds of its population, mainly through subsistence farming on small plots. Up until the drought, the United Nations family, represented by some 15 agencies, had only focused on development.
Ms. Immonen said that, in 2007, Moldova was struck by the most severe drought since 1946. Several regions in the country went without rain for four consecutive months. It would take at least three years with normal rainfall to restore the normal moisture levels in the soil. About 84 per cent of the total area of agricultural land had been affected and the cost of lost production was estimated at some $300 million. The inflation rate had risen to 13 per cent and 100,000 jobs had been lost.
She said that the Government, reacting to the drought, had launched an international emergency appeal, which the United Nations had joined. The appeal for $11.3 million got the very generous response of 90 per cent, from the Governments of Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Italy, as well as from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). United Nations agencies involved were the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The United Nations system, in cooperation with the Moldovan Government, as well as with civil society and non-governmental organizations, organized its response in three phases, she continued. In order to ensure that, after the drought, planting would be possible, it distributed over 20,000 packages of seeds and fertilizers. In order to prevent livestock from dying, it provided 9,000 metric tons of fodder to 20,000 farming households during the winter. To allow for spring planting, corn seed was procured for more than 30,000 farming households. All in all, more than 135,000 people had received assistance. For mid- and long-term planning, the future climate change impact should also be addressed.
She said that the response had not been organized in order to react to a dire famine. Rather, it had tried to avert even greater consequences, such as dying livestock, malnutrition and crop loss.
Throughout the press conference, a silent video was shown of the country “before and after”. Reacting to that video, a correspondent asked whether the country had had desert areas before the drought. Ms. Immonen answered that that had not been the case. On the contrary, Moldova had traditionally enjoyed a favourable climate for the production of wheat, sunflowers and corn.
Asked by a correspondent whether the Russian Federation’s halt to Moldovan wine exports had something to do with the strife around the Dnestr region, she said that the wine export had been stopped before the drought had set in, because of quality issues raised by the Russian Federation quality control centre. It had nothing to do with the Dnestr issue.
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