The outlook for food supplies has seriously deteriorated in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. While prolonged drought continues to undermine production in large areas of eastern Africa, war and civil strife in parts have severely limited farming activities. Large numbers of drought-affected and/or war-displaced persons, refugees and returnees require massive and continued emergency assistance throughout this year and well into 2001. In the Horn of Africa, compared to the same time last year, the number of people facing serious food shortages has increased substantially to nearly 20 million this year, mainly due to drought-induced production losses and/or conflict related displacements. However, the overall food supply situation in southern Africa is satisfactory, while in the Sahelian countries of western Africa, food supplies were boosted and stocks replenished adequately following above average to record harvests last season. On balance, sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import and food aid requirements in 2000 are expected to increase. With continuing balance of payments difficulties in most countries and higher costs of cereal imports, a substantial part of the food imports will have to be met by food aid. However, against a background of increased needs, a cause for concern is the strong competition for food aid from several parts of the world affected by adverse weather and/or economic problems. Additional food aid pledges and logistical support for distribution are urgently needed to improve the food supply situation of the suffering millions in the sub-region.
The early outlook for the 2000 crops in the sub-region has been compromised by an extended drought in the eastern parts. As a result the current critical food shortages are set to persist well into 2001. Poor and erratic rains so far have failed to ameliorate the severe drought conditions since last year.
In Kenya, nearly 3.3 million people are now estimated to be in need of urgent food assistance. Pastoralists are of particular concern as they are faced with the fourth consecutive failure of the rainy season. The current drought has aggravated an already severe scarcity of water and pasture and resulted in large livestock losses. Starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are being reported. The long rains cropping season (March-May), which normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production, has failed due to a severe drought. With the exception of parts of Western Province and Nyanza Province, 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 in the pastoral areas of the north, north-east and north-west. The long drought has also drained water reservoirs prompting the Government to ration power and water.
In May, the Government appealed for international food assistance worth US$134.2 million, reflecting the large numbers of people faced with severe food shortages. An Emergency Operation for US$88.5 million was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 30 June 2000 to assist some 3.3 million people for a period of 6 months. Urgent international response to these appeals is recommended.
In Eritrea, the food supply situation gives cause for serious concern. The displacement of more than 1.5 million people, including those displaced earlier, by the upsurge in the border conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia in May/June 2000 has aggravated an already precarious food supply situation due to drought and displacement. Despite some positive steps towards peace, the humanitarian emergency continues to deepen and the situation could degenerate into a crisis of catastrophic proportions without urgent international response to appeals for assistance. On 19 July 2000, the UN Country Team appealed for US$87.3 million to assist some 1.1 million displaced people.
The mass displacement of farmers from the agriculturally rich regions of Gash Barka and Debub, accounting for more than 70 percent of the country's cereal production, has jeopardised this year's cropping season which has just started. Despite reports of some displaced people returning to their villages, an almost complete lack of food and other relief supplies in most parts of western Eritrea and fear of mines make many reluctant to return. Meanwhile, with the start of the rainy season, roads are turning into mud, further complicating the return of the displaced and the logistics of relief operations. The failure of two successive rainy seasons in Anseba, North Red Sea and South Red Sea administrative zones has also severely affected nearly 300 000 people.
In Ethiopia, the overall food supply situation remains highly precarious. In eastern and southern Ethiopia, despite some recent beneficial rains that brought some relief to the pastoral areas, large numbers of people whose livestock and livelihoods have perished due to drought, depend solely on food assistance. Severe levels of malnutrition and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported.
The secondary "Belg" season crop, which accounts for up to 10 percent of annual grain production, has failed. With this failure, the number of people in need of assistance has increased to more than 10 million people, including 400 000 displaced by the border war with Eritrea. Consequently, the overall food aid requirement in 2000 estimated earlier at 836 000 tonnes has been revised upwards to 1.2 million tonnes. Total pledges by end-June amounted to 730 000 tonnes of which 417 000 have been delivered. A revised Emergency Operation worth a total of US$261.4 million was jointly approved by FAO and WFP on 21 July 2000 to assist some 5.7 million people until the end of this year.
In Somalia, despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation earlier this year in parts of the south due to a better secondary ("Deyr") season harvest in February 2000, serious malnutrition rates are increasingly reported, reflecting loss of livelihoods due to recurrent droughts, longer-term effects of years of insecurity and lack of investment in the economy.
A UN Inter-Agency appeal was launched on 6 June 2000, for US$378 million to assist some 13.4 million drought affected people in countries of the Horn of Africa, including 750 000 people in Somalia.
In Sudan, despite the generally stable food supply situation, nearly 2.4 million people in southern Sudan and in some pockets in the states of Kordofan, Darfur, Red Sea and Kessela in the north depend on food assistance due to crop losses and population displacements by civil strife. The border conflict between the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea has also resulted in tens of thousands of refugees crossing the border into Sudan, adversely affecting the food supply situation in the bordering areas. The Government of Sudan has appealed to the international community for emergency assistance for the refugees.
In Tanzania, several regions are facing acute food shortages due to drought during the 1999/2000 cropping seasons. Output is expected to be reduced in the regions of Dodoma, Singida, Arusha, Morogoro, Kilimanjaro, Shinyanga, Mwanza and parts of Tanga due to late and insufficient rains. The Government has recently declared that 13 of 20 mainland regions have been affected by the drought. A preliminary Government food supply assessment has revealed that the country may face a food deficit of more than 680 000 tonnes in the current 2000/01 marketing year (June/May). Maize prices nearly doubled in Arusha in June while cassava and sorghum prices have increased by more than 50 percent. Overall, nearly 800 000 people are in need of food assistance.
In Uganda, the overall food supply situation is adequate in most parts of the country. However, some parts in the north-west have been severely hit by drought conditions. The food supply situation also remains precarious in the north-eastern districts, with nearly 215,000 people needing urgent food assistance, mainly due to last season's poor harvest and loss of cattle due to raids. Furthermore, food assistance continues to be needed for nearly 112 000 people in Bundibugyo District, in the west, displaced by civil unrest.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the military situation is reported to be "increasingly tense" following the enlarged involvement of neighbouring countries in the ongoing conflict. With the escalation of the conflict, the already critical food supply situation has deteriorated in eastern parts of the country. Recent reports indicate a dramatic rise in mortality in the past year. Population movements are constant, mainly around Bukavu and in areas around Lake Kivu. This has disrupted all agricultural activities in these areas, as farmers have abandoned their plots before harvest. People escaping from violence take refuge in forests, which are inaccessible and where living conditions are inhospitable. In the cities, poverty has increased with the large influx of displaced people.
While the food and nutritional situation of the over one million internally displaced people gives serious cause for concern, access to these IDPs continues to be hindered by insecurity and cut-off of roads. The limited humanitarian assistance being provided has to be airlifted, which increases the costs of delivery. The food situation also remains serious in the rest of the country, reflecting the disruption of agricultural and marketing activities due to the conflict, particularly in the city of Kinshasa and surrounding areas.
In Burundi, insufficient and badly distributed rains during the 2000 B season reduced yields of cereal and pulse crops. The outputs declined for the fourth consecutive season. Most affected by severe dry weather are the northern provinces of Kirundo and Muyinga, and the Moso region. In Kirundo Province alone, 600 000 people are estimated to face serious food shortages in the coming months. The food situation of 704 000 people still in regroupment camps, the majority of whom were not able to plant crops during the 2000 B season, is extremely poor, while distribution of emergency food aid continues to be constrained by insecurity.
Overall, food supply is anticipated to be tight in the coming months. Food prices, which increased considerably during 1999, remain at high levels, reducing access to food for large sections of the population. A substantially increased food deficit is estimated for 2000, as production has not kept pace with the growth in population in recent years.
In Rwanda, erratic and insufficient rains in several areas of the country affected the recently harvested 2000 B season crops. In particular, severe dry weather affected Gikongoro and Cyangugu provinces, where the maize and bean harvests were sharply reduced. Food difficulties are anticipated for the affected population in these provinces in the coming months.
The food situation is also difficult for large groups of vulnerable people, particularly in the northwest province of Ruhengeri where there are high rates of malnutrition.
In Mozambique, the food supply situation remains tight for a large number of people following the unprecedented floods that devastated crops in southern and central areas during the 1999/2000 growing season. About 500 000 persons in the worst affected provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, but also in Manica and Sofala provinces, are currently receiving food assistance. The situation is expected to ease somewhat with the secondary season crops about to be harvested. The second season accounts for 10 percent of the national annual cereal and pulse production, but accounts for some 50 percent in Gaza and about 15 percent in Inhambane and Maputo provinces. The Government and international humanitarian agencies have distributed maize, pulse and vegetable seeds, as well as hand-tools, to flood-affected farmers for planting this season. While emergency relief is progressively being shifted to food-for-work, it is anticipated that food aid will be required until next year's main harvest from April. Meanwhile, there are concerns that rains in the coming season, which starts in September, might cause more damage to roads now being repaired.
Despite the severe crop losses in the southern parts, the main cereal growing areas of the north and centre were not affected by the floods. Overall, the 2000 output of cereals and pulses was satisfactory although lower than the record crop of last year. This, coupled with large carry-over stocks of maize in northern parts and a dysfunctional marketing system between north and south, will result in exportable surpluses.
In South Africa, despite severe floods and crop losses caused by cyclone Eline in the Northern, Mpumalanga, North-West, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, a bumper 2000 crop is in prospect. The maize belt was not affected by flooding and benefited from good rains during the season. The area planted to maize also increased this season. The latest official forecast points to a maize crop close to 10 million tonnes, one-third higher than last year and well above average. However, rains in June delayed harvest operations and negatively affected crop quality, particularly of white maize. The sorghum crop is forecast at almost double last year's.
Following two consecutive years of reduced harvests, this year's maize crop will allow the replenishment of stocks and an exportable surplus of about 1.5-2 million tonnes in marketing year 2000/01 (May/April), enough to cover the import requirements of the sub-region.
In Zimbabwe, severe floods caused by Cyclone Eline in mid-March and subsequent heavy rains resulted in serious damage to infrastructure and crop losses in eastern and southern provinces, leaving 250 000 persons in need of food assistance. While the sorghum crop, mostly produced in these areas, is forecast at around the reduced level of last year, the abundant rains of January-March benefited the maize crop in northern growing areas previously affected by dry weather.
Early official forecasts point to a 2000 maize harvest of 2.15 million tonnes, well above both the reduced crop of 1999 and the average of the last five years. However, civil unrest in recent months has disrupted agricultural activities. The unrest related to the issue of land reform has adversely affected harvesting and marketing activities on large-scale commercial farms, which account for one-third of maize production. The production forecast of maize may, therefore not be achieved. The unrest also affected planting of the 2000 wheat crop, entirely produced by commercial farmers. The area planted is estimated to have declined by one-third from last year's level. A reduced wheat harvest will result in additional import requirements at a time when the country faces a serious shortage of foreign exchange. Shortages of fuel and electricity are also seriously disrupting industrial activities; recently, the important gold mining sector suspended several operations.
In Botswana, harvesting of the cereal crop is complete. Although official estimates are not yet available, preliminary indications point to a sorghum crop lower than anticipated and well below that of last year. Maize production is forecast at around the same reduced level of 1999. Cereal crops in the eastern and southern growing areas were affected by severe flooding following three cyclones during the season. By contrast, the livestock sector benefited from the abundant rains and pastures and animals are reported in good condition. Despite the reduced cereal production, the overall food supply situation in marketing year 2000/01 (April/May) is anticipated to remain stable reflecting the country's import capacity. However, food difficulties are anticipated for some 160 000 people who lost their homes to floods.
In Angola, the 2000 cereal output, mainly maize, declined for the second consecutive year due to dry weather and a shortage of essential inputs. This decline will be partially compensated by a substantial increase in production of roots and tubers. The cereal deficit in marketing year 2000/01 has increased to 753 000 tonnes from 505 000 tonnes last year, reflecting the reduced production, but also a sharp increase in the number of internally displaced people who depend entirely on food aid for their survival. The number of IDPs has reached nearly 2.6 million, of whom 1.9 million are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The food situation of the IDPs, most of whom have no access to land, is critical. While recent nutritional surveys in selected IDP camps indicate a decline in the rate of global acute malnutrition, it remains at a high level of 8.9 percent. Continued food assistance will be necessary in marketing year 2000/01 (April/March). Food aid requirements for this period are estimated at 333 000 tonnes of cereals, of which 71 000 tonnes have already been pledged.
Elsewhere in southern Africa, the outturn of this year's crop is mixed. Excessive rains and floods devastated crops in Swaziland and reduced production in Lesotho, but bumper crops were obtained in Malawi and Namibia. Despite localized floods, maize production recovered in Zambia.
Following above-average or record crops in all Sahelian countries except Guinea Bissau due to the impact of civil disturbances in 1998, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. Several countries were able to replenish their national security stocks, so did farmers. Markets are well supplied. Cereal prices remained mostly stable and often much lower than in previous years. In Mauritania and Senegal, food assistance has been distributed to people affected by flooding at the end of the 1999 rainy season.
Civil disturbances in Sierra Leone spread in May/June which is a critical period for agriculture, heralding the start of planting of the main staple rice crop. During the first week of May, rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters killed several UN peacekeepers and took hostage approximately 500 in a series of attacks in the north and east of the country. This dealt a serious setback to the Lome Peace Accord, which had been signed in July 1999 to formally end eight years of civil war. A rebel advance on Freetown over the weekend of May 6 and 7 created panic in the capital and caused the evacuation of most of the UN, embassy and international NGO personnel to neighbouring countries. The situation is now calm in the capital but hostilities between pro-government and rebel forces continue in the east and the north.
Due to insecurity, agricultural input distribution was suspended and on-going relief operations were seriously disrupted, notably in the north. Despite the current unrest, food distributions to IDPs and other vulnerable groups continued in accessible areas, mainly in Freetown, Bo and Kenema, in the Southern Province. A total of approximately 220 000 IDPs have been registered by aid agencies. Estimates of the total number of non registered IDPs are widely divergent, ranging between 500 000 and 1.2 million. Fighting displaced an estimated 64 000 people in May, mainly from northern areas. Thousands of civilians have sought refuge in forests in nearby Kabala. New IDPs arriving in Freetown and Port Loko have been absorbed into existing camps or housed by relatives. Even if security improves in Northern and Eastern Provinces, poor road conditions, recurrent fuel shortages and inadequate logistical facilities will continue to hamper humanitarian assistance. With the onset of the rainy season, the food supply situation is likely to deteriorate as road conditions worsen, impeding the delivery of relief commodities. In addition, many bridges have been destroyed, and there are no operating ferries for river crossings. The country will continue to suffer a chronic food shortage and to be dependent on external aid for some time.
An estimated 490 000 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in neighbouring West African countries: in Guinea (360 000), in Liberia (96 000) and in other West African states (34 000).
In Liberia, food aid distributions continue but the quantities received are progressively being reduced. Activities are moving from emergency distributions and food for work towards development programmes. WFP is also distributing food aid to Liberian returnees and to 36 000 Sierra Leonean refugees.
Planting of the rice crop benefited from adequate rains in May and June. As in previous years, input distribution has been undertaken by several NGOs in various areas. With the exception of Lofa County, relative peace in most areas has positively influenced farming activities. Cultivated area for rice, the staple crop, is anticipated to increase. In Lofa County, several thousand farmers have been displaced from Voinjama and Kolahum camps in upper Lofa to Tarvey and Sinje in lower Lofa and were not able to plant crops.
Cereal import requirements in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 2000 are expected to increase, mainly reflecting reduced first season harvests in eastern Africa. GIEWS latest estimates of 1999 production and 1999/2000 import and food aid requirements are summarised in Table 2. The total food aid requirement is estimated at 2.5 million tonnes, some 6 percent more than actual food aid imports in 1998/99. Total food aid pledges for 1999/2000, including those carried over from 1998/99, amount to 2 million tonnes of which 1.3 million tonnes have been delivered so far.
The food situation in Kenya, Eritrea and Ethiopia is very serious and needs urgent and concerted action to stave off large scale starvation. Other countries in eastern Africa are also facing deepening and/or continued food supply difficulties. Massive population displacements, both within and across national borders, caused by recent and on-going wars and civil strife, continue to disrupt food production activities. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following areas requiring assistance:
First, Kenya needs urgent food assistance, not only in terms of increased food quantities but also in logistical support for food distribution in remote parts of the country.
Second, increased and continued relief assistance is needed in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia to avert a potentially catastrophic humanitarian crisis due to a prolonged severe drought and large-scale population displacements caused by war and civil strife. Additional pledges of relief assistance are also needed for other drought-affected countries in eastern Africa, as well as those facing food shortages in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Third, in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, recent or on-going wars and civil strife have created large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons who need assistance until their return and reintegration into their communities.
Fourth, continued relief assistance, support for agricultural rehabilitation and repair of damaged infrastructure are needed in several countries in southern African particularly in Mozambique and Madagascar but also in eastern African countries affected by adverse weather and/or civil conflict.