Vietnam is in urgent need of international aid worth US$48.5 million as a crippling drought threatens to create a shortage of food and water for two million people.
Officials from the country’s agriculture ministry and the United Nations estimated at a meeting Tuesday that at least two million people in southern and central Vietnam lack clean water, with 1.1 million also in need of food support.
They said more than 60,000 women and children in 18 hardest-hit provinces are facing malnutrition while around 1.75 million people from farming families have had their livelihoods badly hit.
Dan Tri newspaper quoted agriculture minister Cao Duc Phat as saying there is a high risk of disease outbreaks due to the lack of clean water.
The shortage of food security could increase the rate of severely undernourished children in the coming years, he said.
Vietnam is going through its worst drought in almost a century amid intense and prolonged El Nino conditions. Nearly 260,000 hectares of rice and vegetables, more than 160,000 hectares of orchards and cash crops and more than 4,500 hectares of aquaculture farms have been destroyed, according to an official report released this month.
The report estimated the drought damage at $250 million, saying it would rise since the situation would continue for several more months.
Some 70 percent of agriculture land have dried up in the Central Highlands and south-central regions, the main producers of Vietnam’s major exports like coffee and pepper.
Low water levels in the Mekong River have caused seawater to flow 90 kilometers into the basin, the furthest recorded in history.
Since late last year the government has provided more than 5,200 tons of food to affected areas, officials said at the conference.
More than VND1 trillion (nearly $45 million) has been spent on national drought alleviation projects including for the delivery of two million cubic meters of clean water to affected areas.