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Food Crisis as Drought and Cold Hit Mexico

A drought that a government official called the most severe Mexico had ever faced has left two million people without access to water and, coupled with a cold snap, has devastated cropland in nearly half of the country.

The government in the past week has authorized $2.63 billion in aid, including potable water, food and temporary jobs for the most affected areas, rural communities in 19 of Mexico’s 31 states. But officials warned that no serious relief was expected for at least another five months, when the rainy season typically begins in earnest.

While the authorities say they expect the situation to worsen, one of the five worst-affected states, Zacatecas, got a reprieve on Sunday. Heriberto Félix Guerra, head of the Ministry of Social Development,  saw the rain, the first in 17 months, as a guardedly reassuring sign.

Among the more seriously affected communities are tribal areas of the Tarahumara indigenous community in the Sierra Madre, in the north. Known for endurance running and self-reliance, the Tarahumara are among Mexico’s poorest citizens. When false reports of a mass suicide brought on by hunger surfaced recently, journalists and aid organizations poured in to shed light on the situation.

“I think it has really become extreme poverty,” says Isaac Oxenhaut, national aid coordinator for the Mexican Red Cross. Mr. Oxenhaut recently visited the Indian communities where, he said, the land was too dry to grow any crops the Tarahumara usually depend on for their livelihood. “They don’t have anywhere to harvest absolutely anything,” he added. Nearly 7 percent of the country’s agricultural land, mostly in the north and center, has suffered total loss, according to Victor Celaya del Toro, director of development studies at the Agriculture Ministry.

…(NY Times)

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February 3, 2012 - Posted by | Climate | , , , ,

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