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By Maika Bolatiki

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 19, 1998 - Daily Post/Pasific Nius/Niuswire)--- Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been asked to seek aid from abroad to help with emergency relief supplies to the thousands of people who have been stricken by many months of drought, said Finance Minister James Ah Koy yesterday, the Daily Post reports.

He said Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka would present a paper to Cabinet about the drought situation and the suffering it was causing in the drier parts of the country.

The Government has already distributed relief food supplies to drought victims in the sugar belt. It has also shared out F$ 8 million (US$ 3.94 million) to the cane farmers.

But that is not enough. At least F$ 10 million (US$ 4.92 million) more is needed to cater for the increasing number of people now facing severe hardship because of the drought, said regional development assistant secretary Jone Bolaitamana this week.

The number of drought victims seem to be increasing. The latest survey figures show that there were 55,000 households in need of emergency aid. An earlier survey had put the figure at 30,000.

Surveys show a rapid rise in cases of hardship in the Northern Division where the number of households in need of help has risen from 367 to 4,570.

Mr. Ah Koy said the drought was never expected to be as severe as it is today. But, he has an assurance that although Government funds were scarce, it would find the money to deal with the drought situation.

"I've got only two options - either to draw money from the operational budget or from capital projects," he said.

He was reluctant to draw money from the capital projects fund because doing that would delay current development programs.

But if there was no other alternative, he said he would be forced to withdraw money from there to stop any more suffering.

Title -- 1726 ECONOMY: Fiji seeks drought aid overseas Date -- 19 September 1998 Byline -- Maika Bolatiki Origin --" target="_blank">Pasifik Nius Source -- Daily Post (Fiji), 19/9/98 Copyright -- Daily Post Status – Unabridged This document is for educational and personal use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge" target="_blank">Pasifik Nius:

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