The food situation in Sierra Leone is deteriorating rapidly. The recent political upheaval and resulting widespread civil unrest have aggravated the already precarious food security situation in the country. There is a real possibility of famine. Insecurity is widespread, international aid workers have been evacuated and the rehabilitation projects started during the short-lived civilian administration have been put on hold. A large number of refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries, while repatriation of those outside the country prior to the upheaval has come to a halt. Food supplies in the main towns have dwindled and prices have skyrocketed. Planting and weeding of the main crops which normally take place from April to June have been seriously disrupted, while distribution of inputs has become exceedingly difficult. Thus, contrary to earlier hopes and optimism for recovery, prospects for food production in 1997 are very bleak and the country will continue to need large amounts of food aid to meet its consumption requirements.
Serious food supply difficulties persist in the Great Lakes region. In Burundi, a recent (June) FAO/WFP Mission estimated total food production in 1997 at one percent above 1996 and 4 percent below the 1988-93 pre-crisis average. Despite a relaxation of the embargo, food prices remain very high, ranging from one-third to 275 percent higher than a year ago. In neighbouring Rwanda, a similar Mission at the same time found that total food production in 1997 will be well below the pre-crisis level, despite the need to feed 1.6 million more people than a year ago. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the food and security situation of the remaining Rwandan refugees scattered in many places remains critical, with a high incidence of severe malnutrition.
Food supplies still tight in eastern Africa. The impact of the recent drought continues to be felt in this sub-region, but harvest prospects for the current season crops are generally favourable. In Kenya, the food supply situation remains tight with prices at high levels. In Uganda, prices of maize and beans have more than doubled over the past year. The situation is particularly difficult in the eastern part hit hardest by the drought and the northern part affected by civil strife. In Somalia, the recent drought worsened an already bad situation caused by previous poor harvests, input shortages and continuing civil strife. In Tanzania, the food situation in the drought-hit north and north-east is still difficult and prospects for the next harvest, about to start, appear to be yet unfavourable. In the southern unimodal rainfall areas of the country, cereal harvesting is nearing completion and production is projected at 18 percent below last year. An aggregate cereal import requirement of some 1 million tons for the whole country during the 1997/98 marketing year is provisionally forecast. Elsewhere in eastern Africa the main planting season has just began and the food supply situation is generally satisfactory, except in localized pockets.
Early growing conditions are favourable in western Africa. The rainy season is now well established in western Africa, planting is completed or in progress and crop growing conditions are normal so far. Following generally good harvests in 1996 the food supply situation is expected to remain satisfactory until the next harvest in November/December.
Southern Africa's food supply situation remains stable. Harvesting of the main cereal crops is almost complete in most countries of the region. Total output is expected to be average, estimated at 17 million tons, but 12 percent below last year's bumper crop. With large opening stocks from the last harvest in several countries, the overall food supply situation is expected to be generally stable over the 1997/98 marketing year.
Sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements in 1997 are expected to be lower than last year by some 21 percent, reflecting the generally satisfactory 1996 harvests in western Africa and parts of the Horn, and a relatively good harvest, now nearing completion, in southern Africa. However, the sub-region's food aid needs, though some 15 percent lower than last year, remain high, estimated at 2 million tons. Food aid pledges currently fully match the requirement but speedier deliveries are needed.