GENEVA (AP) _ Cuba's government has appealed to the United Nations for help in dealing with its worst drought in four decades, a U.N. official said today.

The first priority is to provide emergency food aid for the country, but the government has also requested water pumping equipment and farming supplies, said Erik Haegglund of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The El Nino weather phenomenon is blamed for months without rain in parts of the island. The drought and short periods of intense rainfall have caused an estimated $62 million in crop damage, the agency said.

The U.N. World Food Program is appealing for $20.5 million to cover the needs of more than 600,000 vulnerable people in eastern Cuba, agency said in a statement.