The humanitarian crisis in southern Africa is deepening as international response has so far seriously fallen short of needs. Globally, 32 countries are presently facing food emergencies and need food assistance.
Following two consecutive years of poor cereal harvests, the food crisis in southern Africa is worsening due to insufficient and slow food imports, both commercial and emergency relief. Prices of cereals are rising throughout the sub-region further curtailing access to food for large sections of the population. A series of FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions to Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe in April/May 2002 estimated the number of people in need of food aid at 12.8 million. However, follow-up vulnerability assessments recently undertaken by SADC, in collaboration with international agencies, have estimated the number at 14.4 million, with the largest increases in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Against a regional WFP emergency appeal for US$507.3 million to provide food assistance to 10.3 million most affected people until the next harvest in April 2003, only 36 percent had been pledged by early October. In Angola, the number of people requiring food assistance in 2002/03, previously estimated at 1.4 million, has increased to 1.9 million due to the massive return of IDPs and refugees to their areas of origin, following the end of the civil war. In eastern Africa, serious food shortages have emerged in several parts of the sub-region. In Eritrea, the outlook for the current agricultural season is bleak due to poor rains. Already, an estimated one million people are in need of emergency food assistance. In Ethiopia, a large number of livestock deaths and unusual migrations in search of water and pasture are reported. Over 5.8 million people are in need of emergency food assistance until the end of 2002. In Kenya, the “long rains” have been inadequate in many districts, leading to a poor food outlook for 2002/03. In Sudan, serious food supply difficulties are being experienced in several parts due to erratic rains and population displacement following recent escalation of conflict in the south. Some 3 million people depend on food assistance. In Somalia, continuing insecurity and escalation of conflict in parts with attendant population displacement are cause for serious concern. In Uganda, erratic rains in parts and intensified population displacements in the north pose serious food security problems. In Tanzania, despite recent good harvests, food insecurity persists in some regions. In western Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea continue to require food assistance due to past or ongoing civil strife. In Mauritania, the food supply situation remains tight reflecting poor harvests in 2001. In central Africa, a resurgence of fighting in the Republic of Congo has caused renewed population displacement and is affecting food production. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the food supply situation remains difficult due to persistent conflict and dry weather in southern parts. In Burundi, the overall food supply situation has improved with good 2002 food harvests but emergency food assistance is still required for some 462 000 internally displaced people.
In Asia, food shortages persist in Korea, DPR, where WFP urgently requires additional food aid pledges of some 86 000 tonnes of cereals to continue its emergency operation until the end of the year. A severe drought has hit Mongolia, again this season affecting both livestock and cereal production and increasing food aid needs above the current levels. A large number of countries have been affected by tropical depressions, typhoons and an erratic 2002 monsoon, resulting in severe floods and landslides in some areas and drought in others. Extensive damage has been caused to housing and infrastructure, while millions of people have been displaced. Massive relief operations are underway by government agencies and international aid organizations.
In the Near East, favourable weather conditions in most countries have boosted domestic food production. In Afghanistan, however, despite the recovery in agricultural production, years of civil strife and a succession of severe droughts have left millions of people vulnerable to food insecurity. The massive return of refugees and funding shortfalls for humanitarian assistance are exerting extreme strain on available resources. The food situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is grave due to continuing confinement of families in homes by curfews and military operations. In Iraq, despite improved growing conditions, shortages of inputs continue to constrain crop and livestock production. Food supply in some countries of the Asian CIS is tight and emergency food assistance may be required in Tajikistan and Georgia. Hot and dry weather conditions, below average precipitation and low levels of water flows in the main rivers have adversely affected food production in these countries. Tajikistan, in addition, has recently experienced a locust invasion, torrential rains and floods, which have destroyed large areas of crops.
In Central America and the Caribbean, the tight food supply situation in parts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua has been aggravated by increasing unemployment due to the crisis in the coffee sector. 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 September 2002 issue of Foodcrops and Shortages. Countries facing exceptional food emergencies are underlined.