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Press Release 00/46  

NEARLY 20 MILLION PEOPLE IN EASTERN AFRICA FACE SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGES -- UN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION WARNS FOOD ASSISTANCE URGENTLY NEEDED


Nairobi, 16 August 2000 -- The number of people facing serious food shortages in eastern Africa has risen to nearly 20 million, up by three million since April this year, according to a report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The August issue of FAO's Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa says continuing drought has undermined food production in vast areas of eastern Africa, but it also blames war and civil strife for severely limiting farming activities in many areas. The report warns, "large numbers of people will need massive and continued emergency assistance" well into next year.

Overall, in sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO report says 16 countries face exceptional food emergencies. Most of the worst affected countries, including Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan are suffering from the impact of war or civil conflict. Others, like Kenya and Tanzania have been hard hit by drought.

The 16 countries facing food emergencies of varying intensity are: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

In Kenya, FAO estimates that nearly 3.3 million people need urgent food aid. Some starvation-related deaths have been reported among children in the hardest hit areas of the country. FAO says livestock farmers are of particular concern because they are facing the failure of the fourth consecutive rainy season. The current drought has aggravated an already severe scarcity of water and pasture, resulting in large livestock losses.

"With the exception of parts of Western Province and Nyanza Province," the report says, "the rest of the country, including the 'bread-basket' Rift Valley Province, has received little or no rainfall, leading to widespread crop failures, as well as large livestock losses." The long drought has drained water reservoirs and the Government has rationed power and water.

In Eritrea, the report says, "the food supply situation gives cause for serious concern." More than 1.5 million people are displaced in Eritrea, including those who fled their homes in May and June this year because of renewed fighting along the border with Ethiopia. This has further aggravated an already precarious food supply situation.

In Ethiopia, large numbers of people are now depending solely on food assistance for survival, because they have lost their livestock and livelihoods due to drought. According to the report, malnutrition is on the increase and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported.

Serious malnutrition has also been reported in parts of Somalia. FAO cites the loss of livelihoods due to recurring droughts, the long-term effects of civil insecurity and a lack of investment in the economy as underlying causes.

In Sudan, where the food supply situation is stable in general, the report says nearly 2.4 million people, mostly in the south of the country, are depending on food aid due to crop losses and population displacements caused by civil strife. Tens of thousands of refugees have also crossed into Sudan fleeing the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Some areas in Tanzania have acute food shortages. The Government has declared 13 of 20 mainland regions drought- affected and the FAO report says more than 800,000 people in the country need food assistance.

Serious food supply difficulties persist in the Great Lakes Region where the Democratic Republic of Congo is suffering from an increasingly tense military situation, following greater involvement in the conflict by neighboring countries. In Burundi, insufficient and badly distributed rains during this year's B season have reduced yields of cereal and pulse crops. Large numbers of people still in re-groupment camps are cause for serious concern, according to the report.

Elsewhere in Africa, the picture is considerably brighter. The 2000 cereal crop in southern Africa is expected to be normal, notwithstanding the damage caused by floods and cyclones in some parts. Harvesting of the main cereal crops is almost complete in most countries of the region. Generally, southern Africa's cereal production, mainly maize, is forecast to be above normal and the food supply situation is satisfactory, although continued food assistance is required in areas affected by the recent floods and cyclones, mainly Mozambique and Madagascar. In Angola, however, the food situation of some 2.6 million Internally Displaced Persons is said to be "precarious."

In western Africa, the overall food supply situation is stable following above average or record crops in most countries last season, except in Guinea-Bissau due to the civil strife. National food security stocks have been replenished and markets are well supplied. Cereal prices are mostly stable and often much lower than in previous years. The report says that the early growing conditions in the current season are also favorable, but adds that agricultural activities in Sierra Leone have been disrupted by renewed civil disturbances. As a result, a reduced rice crop is forecast. Sierra Leone and Liberia remain heavily dependent on international food assistance.

Because of reduced harvests in eastern Africa, sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements in 2000 are forecast to increase some 4 percent over last year's high level of imports. According to the report, balance of payments problems in a number of African countries means that a substantial part of the imports will have to come from food aid and additional food aid pledges will be needed to avert a crisis. Logistical support is also badly needed to ensure adequate food distribution.

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For further information Contact: Paul Fouda Onambele, FAO Regional Information Officer,
E-mail: FAO-KEN@field.fao.org / Telephone: (00254-2) 725128/ 725440 (FAO Kenya)

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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