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Press Release 00/23

"A HUMAN TRAGEDY LOOMS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA", FAO DIRECTOR-GENERAL WARNS


Rome, 18 April 2000 . - The Horn of Africa needs urgent and adequate food assistance to stave off famine and mass starvation threatening some 16 million people, more than half of the population of Ethiopia, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today in a Special Alert released by its Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

"A human tragedy looms in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Ethiopia where more than 8 million people are facing severe food shortages. Food shortages are particularly grave in the pastoral areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia where deaths from starvation are being increasingly reported", FAO said.

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

The Task Force will develop a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the effects of recurrent drought and to achieve lasting food security in the region.

In addition to Ethiopia and Eritrea, the food crisis also affects Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Persistent drought and poor rainfall, coupled with the effects of armed conflicts and insecurity, have devastated crops and livestock and eroded food stocks in the region, which also plays host to several thousand refugees and internally displaced persons.

Total cereal production in the Horn of Africa has been declining since 1996 due mainly to adverse weather conditions. Consequently, cereal imports have been increasing and are expected to reach a record of over 6 million tonnes in the marketing year 1999/2000, the FAO report said.

In response to earlier warnings, several emergency operations were launched by FAO, sister agencies and NGOs from 1998 up to March 2000 to bring food assistance to the drought and civil strife affected populations.

"Food aid requirements for 2000 in the Horn of Africa have risen sharply and are currently estimated at about 2 million tonnes, more than double last year's volume and the highest level for the past 15 years. They are anticipated to increase further due to grim prospects for the current agricultural season and low foreign exchange earnings," FAO said.

"More food aid pledges are needed and speedier delivery is required to avoid further human suffering and loss of life", the FAO report underlined.

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For further information, contact Pierre Antonios (tel.: 0039.06.57053473) or FAO Media Relations Branch (0039.06.57053625) or consult FAO's website http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/faoinfo/economic/giews/english/alertes/sptoc.htm

where the full text of the Special Alert on the Horn of Africa will be available later today.


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