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Press Release 99/78

SERIOUS FOOD SUPPLY PROBLEMS MOUNT IN EASTERN AFRICA, 1.6 MILLION PEOPLE ARE CUT OFF FROM RELIEF ASSISTANCE, SAYS FAO


Rome, 15 December 1999 -- Warning of a growing food crisis in strife-torn Somalia, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released today says some 1.6 million people are cut off from relief operations and that there have been some deaths from starvation. FAO's Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, blames the crisis on increased fighting in the long-running civil conflict and the impact of a recent severe drought that resulted in a poor harvest. Overall the report says 15 countries* in sub-Saharan region face exceptional food emergencies. Most of the worst affected countries, including Angola, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, are suffering from recent or ongoing civil conflict.

In Somalia, the report says, "the effect of the drought was compounded by the upsurge in civil strife" that led to large numbers of farm families being displaced. The conflict has also disrupted farming activities and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people who need it most. "The escalation of violence has reduced the distribution of humanitarian relief assistance and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported."

The report is prepared by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service. Mr. Mwita Rukandema, the Senior Economist of the Service, said, "The cumulative effects of recurrent droughts, the long-running civil strife, population displacement and uncontrolled crop pests have rendered Somalia's population exceedingly food insecure."

In other parts of eastern Africa, the report says, dry spells and erratic rains have reduced cereal production in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, making many people dependent on food assistance. In Eritrea, half a million people displaced by the war with Ethiopia face severe food shortages, while in Sudan, despite promising harvest prospects, 2 million people in the South are depending on emergency food assistance because of the on-going civil war.

The Great Lakes region in central-eastern Africa still faces a critical food situation mostly because of the civil conflicts that are continuing in many parts of the region. The FAO report says that food supply difficulties have intensified in Burundi due to the recent escalation of violence in some parts, resulting in renewed displacement of people and forcing the suspension of international humanitarian aid. The food and health situation of some 821,000 people in camps is of serious concern. "Living conditions in these camps are reported to be extremely poor, with no clean water and sanitary facilities. The overall crop prospects are also unfavourable, due to dry weather and reduced planting. A reduced harvest this season will follow a below normal harvest last season." The report forecasts that the current tight food situation will deteriorate in the coming months.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the report says civil strife has left some 10 million people uncertain of their next meal, while in the neighboring Republic of Congo civil strife has disrupted agriculture and marketing activities.

Meanwhile, Rwanda has seen an overall increase in food production last season, according to FAO, but even with this there are about 900,000 returning refugees who need urgent food assistance, while in several areas severe food shortages continue.

In southern Africa, Angola is troubled by an escalation of the civil war, making an already precarious food situation even worse. In central and northern Angola, the report says, "severe food supply difficulties and malnutrition are reported among the displaced population in several areas." The food supply situation is reported to be stable elsewhere in southern Africa, although locusts still pose potential problems in central and southwestern Madagascar.

According to FAO, in West Africa, the Sahelian region in West Africa has harvested bumper crops in a number of countries, despite some serious localized flooding in The Gambia, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. Only Guinea-Bisau, Liberia and Sierra Leone continue to experience food problems caused by earlier civil strife. However, the situation is improving in Sierra Leone and especially Liberia where a range of interventions in agriculture has led to what the FAO report called "a significant improvement in food production."

However, the report adds, "the two countries will continue to rely heavily on international food assistance for several years to come."

* The 15 countries facing food emergencies of varying intensity are: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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For further information Contact: John Riddle, FAO Information Officer
e-mail: john.riddle@fao.org
Telephone: (39) 06/57053259

The Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects report will soon be available on the FAO web site at the following URL:

http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/faoinfo/economic/giews/english/eaf/eaftoc.htm


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