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Press Release 01/48


Nairobi/Rome, 1 August - In sub-Saharan Africa, 17 countries are facing exceptional food emergencies caused by difficult weather conditions, persistent civil strife and insecurity, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a new report published today (Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in sub-Saharan Africa).

In the Horn of Africa, the spectre of another drought is haunting several countries. In Sudan, the recent escalation of the conflict in the south has displaced a large number of people and aggravated the already precarious food situation due to drought, FAO said. In Somalia, serious food shortages are anticipated. In southern Africa, food production has significantly declined in several countries. In Zimbabwe, the food situation gives serious cause for concern, according to the report.

"All possible efforts should be made to arrest the deteriorating food situation in Sudan and Somalia," said Abdur Rashid, Chief Global Information and Early Warning Service. "Zimbabwe's food outlook to the next harvest is bleak and calls for contingency plans for food assistance in the coming months."

In Sudan, the number of people that need assistance is currently estimated at about 3 million and is expected to increase. The situation is particularly grave in Bahr-El-Ghazal where escalation of the civil conflict was most pronounced, according to the report. "Elsewhere, poor harvests for two consecutive years and depletion of stocks have led to a sharp increase in cereal prices, reducing access to food for large segments of the population." Many farmers and other vulnerable groups have migrated in search for work and food. "There is an urgent need for more food aid and support for logistics if starvation is to be avoided."

In Somalia, prospects for the 2001 main "gu" cereal crops are poor due to insufficient rains. Despite the good harvests in the last two seasons, severe food difficulties may emerge reflecting the poor rains, slow recovery from a succession of droughts and long-term effects of years of insecurity. Food prices have sharply increased, eroding the purchasing power of many people.

In southern Africa, a combination of long dry spells, severe floods and disruption of farming activities in parts has resulted in significant production shortfalls in the sub-region.

In Zimbabwe, "the food supply situation is tight for large sections of the population," the report stated. This year's main maize crop is estimated at some 1.5 million tonnes, 28 percent lower than last year. "Cereal production has been affected by a sharp decline in the area planted on the large scale commercial farms due to disruption by land acquisition activities, and in the communal farm sector by payment delays by the Grain Marketing Board."

In rural areas, the most affected are farmers who harvested a poor crop due to the dry spell in January and excessive rain in February-March, as well as those who have not yet recovered from the impact of cyclone Eline last year, mainly in the southern parts. "Farm workers who lost their jobs as a result of farm invasions or land acquisitions, and vulnerable populations in the chronically food insecure areas also face a difficult food situation. In urban areas, declining real incomes, rising cost of food and non-food items and acute shortages of fuel due to scarcity of foreign exchange, are seriously affecting low-income households."

In Ethiopia, favourable current "belg" rains and last year's bumper "meher" cereal and pulse crop have significantly improved the overall food supply situation in the country. However, some 6.5 million people affected by successive droughts and the war with Eritrea depend on food assistance. In Eritrea, the food outlook remains bleak with large numbers of the displaced farmers unable to return to their farms and large tracts of land still inaccessible due to landmines.

In Kenya, despite an overall improvement in food supply, inadequate rains in May and June, particularly in pastoral districts, have dimmed hopes of recovery from the effects of the recent devastating drought.

In southern Africa, food production has significantly declined in several countries, due to lower plantings and adverse weather. Maize output, which accounts for over 90 percent of the subregions's total cereal production, is estimated at 13.7 million tonnes, 26 percent lower than in 2000 and well below average. In Swaziland and Lesotho, import requirements have increased sharply compared to last year due to large drops in 2001 cereal production. Also Zambia, Namibia and Botswana have suffered significant declines in coarse grain production. By contrast, this year's cereal production in Angola is estimated to be significantly above last year's. However, over 1.3 million internally displaced people need emergency food aid.

In western Africa, the food situation is particularly tight in parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Liberia.

Food emergencies persist in the Great Lakes region. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the food and nutrition situation of an estimated 2 million internally displaced people is very serious. In Burundi, increased insecurity has displaced large numbers of rural people, disrupting food production and marketing activities, while in Rwanda the security situation remains precarious in parts.

17 countries facing exceptional food emergencies:

Angola: civil strife, population displacement; Burkina Faso: drought; Burundi: civil strife and insecurity; Chad:drought; Congo, Democratic Republic of: civil strife, internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees; Eritrea: IDPs, returnees and drought; Ethiopia: drought, IDPs; Guinea: civil strife, population displacement; Kenya: drought; Liberia: past civil strife, shortage of inputs; Niger: drought; Rwanda: droughts in parts; Sierra Leone: civil strife, population displacement; Somalia: drought, civil strife; Sudan: civil strife in the south, drought; Tanzania: food deficits in several regions due to drought Uganda: civil strife in parts, drought.

The report is available on the Internet at:

For more information please call the FAO Media Relations Office, Tel: 0039-06-5705 2232.

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