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Press Release 01/100

FAO: FOOD SITUATION IN SOMALIA IS DETERIORATING FAST - IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION 2,5 MILLION PEOPLE LIVE IN MISERY AND HUNGER - OVERALL FOOD SUPPLY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO


Rome, 13 December - Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are still facing serious food shortages due to natural and man-made disasters, although the overall food supply situation is generally better than it was a year ago, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a new issue of its Africa report (Food supply situation and crop prospects in sub-Saharan Africa) issued today.

Somalia is of particular concern, as the food situation is rapidly deteriorating following a sharply reduced 2001 main season harvest, the lowest in the last seven years, due to drought, the report said. An estimated 800 000 people are experiencing food difficulties, with 300 000 people mainly in southern regions threatened by starvation and in urgent need of food assistance. Recent heavy rains in neighbouring Ethiopian highlands have caused an overflow of rivers in southern Somalia, displacing large numbers of people and aggravating the already serious food supply situation.

The continuing ban on livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula due to Rift Valley fever is causing substantial loss of income, particularly in northern Somalia. The ban imposed in September 2000 is estimated to have cost the country hard currency earnings amounting to US$120 million. In addition, remittances from Somalis living abroad have been curtailed by the recent closure of the Al-Barakaat money transfer company, which channelled millions of dollars into the country.

In the Great Lakes region, over 2.5 million internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are largely inaccessible to humanitarian agencies due to insecurity, live in misery and hunger. The on-going conflict continues to disrupt agricultural activities. In the south-eastern province of Katanga, the rate of children malnutrition is reported to be alarmingly high with 11 children dying daily. The nutritional situation remains serious throughout the country, including in Kinshasa and other urban centres. Elsewhere in the region, the food supply situation has improved considerably in Burundi and Rwanda.

In eastern Africa, the food situation has markedly improved compared to last year. In Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, good harvests have been realised or are in prospect, reflecting favourable weather conditions. However, pastoral populations in Ethiopia and Kenya continue to depend on food assistance due to drought conditions that have persisted for the past three years. In Eritrea, food assistance continues to be needed for more than 50 000 displaced people. In Ethiopia, serious food shortages and migration of people and livestock are reported in the pastoral areas due to persistent drought.

In southern Africa, the food situation is tight and food shortages are being reported in several countries. In Zimbabwe, serious food difficulties are reported in the south, east and extreme north where production was reduced by dry weather or excessive rains. Around 705 000 people in rural areas are at risk of food shortages. In addition, 250 000 people in urban areas are experiencing food difficulties due to a sharp increase in food prices, while some 30 000 farm workers have lost their jobs and are left without means of subsistence.

At the national level, stocks are being depleted. The Government has made arrangements to import 150 000 tonnes of maize but the grain has not yet reached the country. The food supply situation could further deteriorate next year as planting of the 2002 maize crop, now underway, is likely to be disrupted following a Government decree authorising the seizure of commercial farms targeted for acquisition. Losses of export earnings and intensification of economic difficulties are also anticipated as commercial farmers reduce production.

In Angola, food assistance is needed for 1.34 million internally displaced and vulnerable people. Malawi and Zambia have announced large orders of maize imports. In Mozambique, despite a good harvest, food assistance will be needed for about 100 000 people affected by dry weather. In Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, where cereal production was poor, food difficulties are anticipated for many households. In Madagascar, the overall food supply situation has improved following a bumper paddy harvest and large carryover stocks.

The long-running complex emergencies in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo need to be given greater attention in order to find solutions that will bring much needed relief for the suffering populations of these countries, FAO said.

In western Africa, bumper cereal crops have been harvested in the Sahel. This will allow replenishment of farmers'and government stocks. Record harvests are estimated for Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Niger, while above average crops are estimated for Chad, Mali and Senegal. However, prospects are less favourable in Cape Verde, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau as compared to last year. In the coastal countries, food supplies remain tight in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the impact of recent civil conflicts.

15 countries are facing exceptional food emergencies

Angola                   civil strife, populations displacement
Burundi                  civil strife and insecurity
Congo, Dem. Rep. civil strife, internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees
Eritrea                    IDPs, returnees, and drought
Ethiopia                 drought, IDPs
Guinea                   IDPs and refugees
Kenya                   drought
Liberia                   past civil strife, population displacement
Sierra Leone          civil strife, population displacement
Somalia                 drought, civil strife
Sudan                    civil strife in the south, drought
Tanzania                food deficits in parts, refugees
Uganda                 civil strife in parts, IDPs
Zambia                  excessive rains, floods
Zimbabwe             drought in parts

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For more information please contact the FAO Media Relations office at
39 06 5705 3625. You can also visit the FAO homepage at: http://www.fao.org.

The report is available on the Internet at: http://www.fao.org/giews/english/eaf/eaftoc.htm


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