Food Outlook No.3 - July 2002 p.4

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Following two successive years of poor harvests in most countries of southern Africa, a food crisis has emerged in the subregion calling for immediate international response. At the world level, 31 countries are experiencing severe food shortages and require international food assistance.

In southern Africa, the 2002 food crops were sharply reduced for the second consecutive year largely due to severe dry weather but also as a result of excessive rains in parts. The effects of adverse weather were compounded by a further decline in plantings in the commercial sector in Zimbabwe due to land reform activities. Recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions estimated that a total of 12.78 million vulnerable people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland are in need of emergency food assistance. In Mozambique, despite a good overall harvest, production was reduced by drought in the Southern and Central regions, where some 515 000 people are estimated to be in need of relief assistance. In Angola, the cease-fire agreement signed in April between UNITA and the Government revealed the extent of suffering by people trapped in rural areas by the conflict, with up to 500 000 reported to be in a critical nutritional situation. In eastern Africa, despite improved overall food supply in several countries, millions of people still depend on food assistance due to the lingering effects of recent devastating droughts and past or ongoing conflicts. In addition, recent floods and landslides in parts resulted in loss of life and destruction of crops and property. In Eritrea, the overall food supply situation remains tight reflecting the displacement of a large number of people by the recent war with Ethiopia and drought in 2000. Nearly 600 000 people are reported to be relying on food assistance. In Somalia, the escalation of conflict has exacerbated the already precarious food situation and disrupted agricultural activities in parts. Large numbers of people have been displaced, most of them fleeing to neighbouring countries. In Kenya, heavy rains, floods and landslides in April and May 2002 resulted in deaths and destruction of crops and property. In addition, a large number of people, mainly pastoralists, still depend on food assistance due to lingering effects of recent severe drought. Heavy rainfall in parts of southern Tanzania and western Uganda has also caused loss of life and localised damage to crops and property. In Ethiopia, despite the improved overall food situation, inadequate rainfall in parts has resulted in reduced pasture and water availability for livestock. Overall, some 5.2 million people are estimated to be facing severe food shortages. In Sudan, the recent escalation of conflict and disruptions in humanitarian access to the affected people have exacerbated an already precarious food situation, with nearly 3 million people estimated to be in need of food assistance. In western Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea continue to require international food assistance due to past or ongoing civil strife. In Mauritania, the food supply situation is tight following a poor harvest. In central Africa, the food situation continues to be serious in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC) where food production continues to be disrupted by the long-running civil war. In the Republic of Congo a resurgence of fighting has caused renewed population displacement and is affecting agricultural activities. In Burundi, despite satisfactory food production during the first season of 2002, significant numbers of vulnerable people need food assistance.

In Asia, following recent confirmed donations to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, food assistance has been resumed to beneficiaries who earlier had been excluded from food distribution due to under-resourcing. However, additional cereal pledges are needed to ensure continued food supplies to needy groups. In Mongolia, another harsh winter and severe spring storms with snow further eroded the food security of nomadic herders. Extreme floods have caused loss of life and damage to infrastructures and crops in western and central China, northeastern India and Bangladesh. In Iran, a violent earthquake struck northwestern areas in late June, causing over 200 deaths and rendering thousands homeless. Assistance is being provided by national relief organizations, while requests have also been made for international assistance. The food supply situation in some countries in the Asian CIS is tight due to adverse weather and emergency food assistance is required in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Georgia, the worst affected countries. Tajikistan, in addition, has recently experienced a locust invasion, torrential rains and floods, which have destroyed large areas of crops.

In the Near East, the food situation in Afghanistan remains grave, notwithstanding the relative calm and improved delivery of food assistance. The worst locust plague in 30 years and floods in parts have affected crop prospects. Funding shortfalls for humanitarian agencies are cause for serious concern. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues to be serious due to continuing violence and curfews. In Central America and the Caribbean the tight food supply situation in parts of El Salvador and Guatemala has been aggravated by the dramatic fall in international coffee prices. In Europe targeted food assistance continues to be necessary for refugees, the internally displaced and vulnerable populations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in Chechnya in the Russian Federation.

1/ This updates information published in the June 2002 issue of Foodcrops and Shortages. Countries facing exceptional food emergencies are underlined.

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