Drought in Africa threatens millions with starvation

The carcass of an animal in drought-stricken Ethiopia offers a stark reminder of the looming crisis (FAO/10919/F. Botts)

Fears are mounting that if rains expected in the Horn of Africa don't arrive soon, a situation worse than the famine of 1984/85 could occur. A Special Alert released by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) warns that a succession of droughts has put 16 million people at risk of starvation in Ethiopia as well as in Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

"The humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa has reached serious proportions and requires an urgent and adequate response from the international community," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. He was recently appointed chairman of the UN Task Force for long-term food security, agricultural development and related aspects in the Horn of Africa by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Food shortages are particularly severe in eastern and southern Ethiopia, where deaths from starvation are being increasingly reported. There, and in parts of Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, insecurity and civil strife are compounding the food emergency.

The drought's effect on cereal production has led to a record increase in total cereal import requirements, now estimated at more than 6 million tonnes. At the same time, the affected countries are earning less in foreign exchange to pay for imports due to low world prices of export commodities such as coffee. Consequently, food aid requirements, already at a 15-year high, are expected to further increase.

19 April 2000

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