FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL ALERT

No. 316

(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

COUNTRY: SUDAN

DATE: 22 August 2001

EXTENSIVE FLOODS FOLLOWING PROLONGED DROUGHT JEOPARDISE FOOD SECURITY IN SUDAN

Following two consecutive years of serious drought, extensive floods in northern Sudan have displaced tens of thousands of people, destroyed crops and aggravated the already precarious food supply situation in the affected areas. Heavy rains in the Blue Nile catchment areas in Ethiopian highlands caused an overflow of the Nile river and submerged many villages and settlements. Water levels in the Nile are reported to be higher than those of 1988, when the river burst its banks causing massive destruction. Worst affected areas are northern and eastern parts along the Nile, including areas around the capital city Khartoum. South Darfur State has also suffered from flash floods due to torrential rains. Large number of inhabited islands on the Nile have been evacuated but several villages and towns remain isolated by the floods. Access to the affected population is difficult due to damage to main roads and bridges.

The humanitarian situation in the affected areas is reported to be critical and there is an urgent need for international assistance to rescue the stranded people and to provide them with food, drinking water, medicines and other assistance. As several areas are inaccessible, airlift operations are needed to reach the isolated population. A full assessment of crop losses and agricultural damage is not yet available, but, preliminary indications point to significant crop and livestock losses.

Overall prospects for the 2001 main season cereal crop, normally harvested from October, were already poor before the damage caused by floods. A late start of the rainy season in parts and large number of population displacement due to escalation of conflict in southern Sudan resulted in a decline in plantings and potential yields. The losses and yield reductions caused by the floods are likely to worsen the already unfavourable harvest outlook.

Over the last two years, lower harvests coupled with virtual depletion of stocks have led to a sharp rise in cereal prices, reducing access to food for the poorer segments of the population. The purchasing power of large numbers of people, particularly pastoralists, has been seriously eroded. With coping mechanisms stretched to the limit, farmers and other vulnerable groups have migrated in search of work and food. The number of people joining WFP's "Food for Work" programmes has increased dramatically. Government efforts to mitigate food shortages by lifting customs duties on food imports and financing grain purchases through the Strategic Commodity Stock Authority have, to some extent, helped stabilise cereal markets. However, severe malnutrition rates are on the rise reflecting acute food shortages. The situation will worsen in the coming months unless timely and adequate assistance is provided. The number of people in need of urgent food assistance, estimated at some 3 million earlier in the year due to drought and/or civil war, is set to increase with current floods. Last year's drought has affected mainly greater Darfur and Kordofan, Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei, Red Sea and Butana province in Gezira State.

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission earlier this year estimated a cereal import requirement of 1.44 million tonnes in marketing year 2000/01 (November/October) of which 1.2 million tonnes were expected to be covered commercially while the remaining was expected to be met by food aid. International food aid pledges cover only a fraction of the requirements so far.

FAO and WFP will jointly field a mission to the country in October/November 2001, to assess the outcome of this year's harvest and food supply outlook for 2001/02 (November/October) including an estimation of the country's food import requirements and food aid needs of the affected population.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG ) for further information if required.
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