Mass starvation threatens parts of eastern Africa: 16 million people in need of food aid


Sixteen million people in eastern Africa are in need of emergency food aid and the threat of starvation is severe, according to FAO's latest report on the Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in sub-Saharan Africa. Half of these people are in Ethiopia, where nearly 13 percent of the national population is severely short of food.

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The dire situation in eastern Africa is largely due to successive years of poor rains, which have hit pastoral areas in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia particularly hard. Losses of large numbers of livestock have left hundreds of thousands of pastoral families without a source of income or food. The effects of the drought are worsened by civil conflict in several areas - "disrupting food production and distribution, triggering food shortages and mass population displacements," according to the report.

The poor rainfall is forecast to continue throughout the current season, pushing the numbers of people in need of food assistance up even further. "Only a massive international effort in the coming months ... can avert further human suffering and loss of life," the report says.

In southern Africa, Mozambique needs massive relief and rehabilitation assistance following the recent disastrous floods. Latest estimates indicate that 1.9 million people have been affected by the disaster, and food-deficit provinces in southern and central parts of the country have sustained major crop and livestock losses.

In Madagascar, 10 000 people were left homeless by the two cyclones. Indications point to severe damage to coffee plantations, fruit trees and paddy crop in low-lying areas.

In the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation remains bleak because of the combined effects of civil strife, insecurity, shortage of agricultural inputs and poor rainfall. In Burundi, the food and health situation of 800 000 displaced people in camps is particularly critical.

The number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa facing exceptional food emergencies now stands at 16.

The good news in this latest Africa report is from the Sahelian countries in western Africa, where bumper harvests have been gathered in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal.

FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) issues the Africa report three times a year. It is designed to provide the latest analysis and information on the food situation in these countries to governments, international organizations and other institutions engaged in relief operations.

3 April 2000

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