In southern Africa, cereal production in 2001 is forecast to fall sharply, mainly due to a prolonged mid-season dry spell and subsequent excessive rains that adversely affected food crops in most countries. In South Africa, low maize prices at sowing time contributed to lower plantings, while in Zimbabwe resettlement of large-scale commercial farms will be a contributing factor to reduced production. Latest FAO forecast for the maize crop, which accounts for 75 percent of cereal production in southern Africa, points to a decrease of 27 percent compared to last year. The sharp decline in maize production in South Africa, officially forecast at nearly 34 percent from last year, will mean a considerable reduction in its exportable surplus and neighbouring food-deficit countries may need to source their grain requirements from outside the sub-region. In parts of Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe some 960 000 people have been severely affected by severe floods. Damage to infrastructure and housing, displacement of people, as well as crop losses are reported. The damage is particularly serious in Mozambique, along the Zambezi River basin. In Angola, the food supply situation remains serious for over 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), with the number constantly increasing.
In eastern Africa, some 18 million people still rely on food assistance, following the severe drought last year, coupled with conflicts in parts. Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Eritrea account for about 16 million or 89 percent of the total. In Kenya, the severe drought last year seriously undermined the food security of nearly 4.4 million people. In Eritrea, more than 1.8 million people displaced by the war with Ethiopia and affected by drought need food assistance. The outlook for the 2001 agricultural season, starting in the next few weeks, is bleak as farmers have not returned to their farms so far and large tracts of land are still inaccessible due to landmines. In Sudan, serious food shortages have emerged in western and southern parts due to drought. The long-running civil war is aggravating the situation by impeding rural households from cultivation. In Ethiopia, despite a favourable "meher" season crop, some 6.5 million people affected by successive droughts and the war with neighbouring Eritrea depend on food assistance. By contrast, in Somalia, a satisfactory secondary ("deyr") season crop preceded by a favourable main ("gu") harvest has improved overall food prospects. Consequently, the number of people in need of food assistance has declined from 750 000 to 500 000. Also, the food outlook for the sub-region as a whole has improved somewhat in recent months following favourable rains and forecasts of near-normal rainfall in the coming months.
In the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation remains precarious for the internally displaced people (IDPs) whose numbers continue to rise. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a serious humanitarian situation continues unabated, with the number of IDPs estimated at over 2 million and increasing. However, humanitarian assistance continues to be hampered by insecurity. In the capital city, Kinshasa, with a population estimated at between 6-7 million, serious food shortages and high food prices are reported, with high rates of malnutrition. In addition, there are an estimated 333 000 refugees in the country, mainly from Angola. In Burundi, food difficulties persist for the IDPs currently estimated at around 400 000. The recent escalation of conflict around the capital city, Bujumbura, has added to the number of the displaced. In Rwanda, despite significant increases in food production last season, food assistance is still needed for IDPs currently estimated at around 6 000, but also for a large number of vulnerable people, including those that suffered a reduced harvest.
In the Sahel, the food supply situation has tightened in parts, following reduced harvests, notably in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, and food distributions to the affected populations are underway and the governments have appealed to donors for assistance. Sierra Leone and Liberia remain heavily dependent on international food assistance, despite some improvement in food production, while Guinea is faced with rebel attacks in border areas which are affecting agricultural activities and have caused new population displacements.
Sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements are set to remain high in 2001, mainly reflecting the effects of drought last year in eastern Africa, reduced harvests in parts of the Sahel and an expected sharp drop in production in southern Africa.