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Sat 4 Oct 2008 09:47 AM

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Syria hit by worst drought in 40 years

UN warns that livelihoods of one million people endangered, appeals for $20mn in aid.

Syria hit by worst drought in 40 years
LIVELIHOODS ENDANGERED: Syrians cool of with water from a public fountain in Damascus. Syria is facing its worst drought in 40 years. (AFP)

Syria has been hit by the worst drought in 40 years, endangering the livelihoods of one million people, the United Nations warned Friday as it appealed for $20 million in aid.

"Syria is currently experiencing a drought that is by far the worst over the past four decades and it is facing the risk of rising malnutrition," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN's humanitarian bureau (OCHA).

"[The] Syrian government estimated that up to one million people - predominantly herders and subsistence farmers - are at risk of losing their livelihoods and of increased malnutrition," she added.

Up to 59,000 herders have lost all their herds while 47,000 others lost half to 60 percent of their livestock, she said.

While the government had lent herders feed that could be repaid next season, and distributed free veterinary medicines and vaccines, OCHA said "the needed assistance is beyond the government's capacity and resources".

"The situation is not expected to improve until spring 2009, if the rains do not fail for a second year in a row," warned Byrs.

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