FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.3 - December 2002 p.4

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As 2002 draws to a close, the food situation in southern Africa remains grave, particularly in Zimbabwe. The food outlook in eastern Africa is also bleak, particularly in Ethiopia and Eritrea, mainly due to drought. In the Great Lakes region, insecurity and flare-ups in civil conflicts continue to disrupt agricultural production. In western Africa, the food situation in Mauritania is very serious following three consecutive years of poor harvests.


The food crisis in southern Africa resulting from two consecutive poor harvests is worsening due to dwindling food stocks and slow imports, including food aid. The situation could deteriorate into a large-scale famine if international assistance continues to be slow and inadequate.

In Zimbabwe, the food crisis is worsening. Severe shortages of basic foods including maize, milk, bread and sugar are reported in rural and urban areas, with bakeries closing due to lack of wheat. Increasing cases of malnutrition are reported from different locations. About half of the population, or 6.7 million people, are in need of emergency food assistance until next March, mostly in rural areas. Despite considerable effort made by both humanitarian organisations and the Government to import maize, the actual level of imports remains well below requirements.

The overall economic crisis in the country, with inflation rates projected to reach 155 percent by the end of the year, coupled with continuous depreciation of the national currency, is further reducing access to basic food for the majority of the population. Following severe shortages of fuel in October, the Government authorized imports of fuel by the private sector in early November.

There is urgent need to increase and expedite maize imports to avert famine in Zimbabwe.

In Zambia, the food situation of 2.9 million people, or 25 percent of the population, is of grave concern following two consecutive poor harvests. The food situation is particularly serious for vulnerable people in remote areas who have exhausted their food stocks at a time when prices of maize have increased sharply from the already high levels of last year. WFP projects a shortage of 100 000 tonnes of maize in the pipeline from November to March, the critical hunger period, and it is using recent cash contributions to purchase maize.

In Malawi, food distributions during October were double the level of September, providing relief to some 2.3 million people. Against WFP food aid appeal of 171 000 tonnes of cereals for Malawi in the Southern Africa Regional Emergency Operation, the level of pledges by late October were adequate and 83 000 tonnes had already arrived in the country. Commercial imports of maize have also been adequate and most of the 225 000 tonnes requirement estimated by an FAO/WFP Mission in April-May, has been covered. However, despite the improvement in the overall food supply, there are serious food access problems. Prices of maize remain at high levels, although by early October they were generally below their levels at the same time last year. Large numbers of people in rural areas still lack purchasing power to buy food in the market.

In Namibia, 345 000 people of the country's population of 1.8 million are in need of emergency food assistance as a result of a prolonged dry spell that sharply reduced the 2002 cereal production in the main producing northern regions. The worst affected region is Caprivi in the north-east. The Government has allocated US$ 14 million for the provision of emergency food assistance and has recently awarded tenders to transport companies to move relief food across the country.

In Madagascar, despite an overall satisfactory 2002 cereal harvest, the food supply situation is tight for a large number of vulnerable people due to the lingering effects of the political crisis in the first half of the year which seriously disrupted economic activities. Increases in petrol prices and transport costs resulted in sharp increases in basic food prices in urban areas and, at the same time, depressed producer prices in isolated rural areas. Overall, it is estimated that 150 000 people lost their jobs as a result of the crisis.

Serious food difficulties are also being experienced in 13 districts of the south, where the harvest was reduced by dry weather for the second consecutive year and in parts of the eastern province of Toamasina where crops and irrigation infrastructure were destroyed following Cyclone Kesiny in May.

A WFP Emergency Operation has recently been jointly approved with FAO to provide 18 000 tonnes of food assistance until next March for 394 250 vulnerable people affected by the socio-economic crisis and natural disasters.

In Angola, the food situation of a large number of displaced people gives cause for serious concern. The number of people in need of emergency food aid has been raised to 1.9 million from the 1.42 million estimated by the FAO/WFP Mission in May 2002. Recent reports indicate that while malnutrition rates have declined with improved access to the needy population, they remain at high levels. Most of the areas to which the populations are returning have no basic health services. Despite the gradually improving accessibility to the provinces, poor road conditions, broken bridges and landmines continue to hamper expansion of relief assistance, as well as internal trade.

Elsewhere in the sub-region, improved food aid distribution has provided relief to large numbers of people affected by a poor harvest in Lesotho and Swaziland. In Mozambique, heavy rains in October have hampered access to vulnerable groups in remote areas, particularly in Inhambane and Tete provinces.


The food situation in the Horn of Africa is cause for serious concern, following drought conditions that have sharply reduced the 2002 cereal harvests. The situation is particularly serious in Ethiopia and Eritrea where large cereal imports, are needed to stave off mass starvation. Generous donor response has averted starvation so far, but the food shortages are expected to continue well into 2003.

In Eritrea, more than one-third of the population faces severe food shortages due to a prolonged drought that seriously affected agricultural and livestock production. A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission found that the failure of the short “azmera” rains (March to June) and the inadequate long “kiremti” rains (June to September) resulted in the lowest level of cereal production since the country's independence in 1993. Pastoralists have also been seriously affected with livestock numbers in some sub-regions reduced by up to 20 percent from their 2001 levels. Furthermore, humanitarian assistance to more than 60 000 people displaced by the recent war with neighbouring Ethiopia and about 50 000 Eritrean returnees from Sudan has placed a huge strain on the country's resources. The UN, in conjunction with the Government of Eritrea, has recently appealed to the international community for US$ 163.4 million in food and non-food assistance

In Ethiopia, poor secondary season “belg” rains and a late start and early cessation of the main “meher” season rains have created an alarming food situation. Large numbers of livestock have died and unusual migrations in search of water and pasture are reported in several parts of the country. In response the Government has recently appealed to the international community for food assistance for more than 11 million people until the end of 2002. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just returned from the country and a report on the outcome of the 2002 “Meher” production and an estimate of food assistance requirements in 2003 will be issued shortly.

In Kenya, the current maize harvest in major producing provinces has improved the overall food supply situation. The decline in food prices is especially beneficial to households in marginal agricultural areas previously affected by drought. However, early estimates of the long rains maize crop indicate an output of about 1.89 million tonnes, down by 19 percent compared to 2.32 million tonnes in 2001. While rainfall was favourable in several previously drought-affected pastoral areas, food insecurity persists in the districts of Mandera, Turkana, Samburu, Marsabit, West Pokot and Baringo.

In Somalia, good rains during the second half of October, which were particularly abundant in major growing areas, encouraged land preparation and early sowing of the 2002/03 secondary “deyr” season crops. The good main “gu” season cereal harvest in southern Somalia has improved the overall food supply situation. However, serious food supply difficulties remain in parts due to successive years of drought and insecurity. In north-western Somalia (Somaliland), despite some recent rainfall the food situation is severe in Sool, Sanag and Nugal regions where the poor “gu” rains affected crops and livestock production. Despite new export opportunities in chilled meat to some countries in the Near East, the continuing ban by the same on imports of live animals on account of Rift Valley Fever has reduced foreign exchange earnings and affected the livelihoods of a large number of pastoralists.

In Sudan, a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the southern regions found a deterioration in the food supply situation compared to last year and estimated a larger deficit in cereal production. Late onset of rains and new population displacement following the recent escalation of the long-running conflict, have severely affected agricultural production. In central and northern Sudan, harvesting of the 2002 main season cereal crops has just started. Reports indicate poor crop prospects with food shortages already being experienced in several areas. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has just returned from the country and a report is to be issued shortly.

In Tanzania, the overall food situation remains satisfactory with increased on-farm stocks and market supplies. However, current wholesale prices for maize in major maize producing regions (including Rukwa, Mbeya, and Iringa in the Southern Highlands, and Dodoma in Central Tanzania) were higher this month than the average of the previous five years. Also, on certain markets such as Kilimanjaro and Tanga (northern Tanzania), wholesale prices of maize have started to rise earlier than usual.

In Uganda, a late onset of the secondary season rains coupled with an escalation of the conflict in the north has seriously affected the food supply situation in parts. Crop failure in the north-eastern region of Karamoja due to long dry spells has aggravated the food difficulties. The intensification of conflict and insecurity in the north has displaced a large number people, adding to the existing large IDP population. Nearly 750 000 people are currently being assisted in several parts of the country.


In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the humanitarian situation remains serious due to the persistent civil war. The intensification of military activities in South-Kivu province, particularly around the border town of Uvira in October has resulted in renewed population displacement, as people flee from fighting. At the same time, it has seriously curtailed humanitarian access to the victims, and insufficient WFP food stocks have led to reduced distributions. The nutritional situation of the internally displaced population is extremely serious. Recent assessments indicate that between 10 to 30 percent of the population in eastern areas of the country are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The food and nutritional situation is also severe in urban areas, particularly in the capital Kinshasa and surrounding areas, where a survey undertaken in poor neighbourhoods last August found that the average daily intake of calories was about half of the minimum recommended amount. Food assistance is being provided by humanitarian agencies but it remains below the requirements. Alarming rates of malnutrition are also reported in parts of Katanga region where grain production this year was sharply reduced by drought.

Despite some violent incidents, some 2 000 Rwandan militiamen and their families were repatriated in early November, under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC).

In Burundi, the security situation continues to deteriorate. Cease-fire negotiations in Tanzania between the Government and rebels in late October ended without an agreement. The escalation of violence in central and eastern provinces, including Gitega, Bujumbura Rural, Bubanza and Ruyigi, is causing fresh waves of population displacements internally and to neighbouring countries, mainly Tanzania. A recent assessment carried out by WFP in five communes of Gitega and Rutana provinces indicates that over 14 000 households in Gitega and 16 670 households in Rutana have been seriously affected by insecurity and urgently need food assistance. In addition, food assistance is needed for the growing number of Congolese refugees fleeing from armed conflict in DRC. UN together with other resident international agencies are currently reviewing estimates of the population requiring assistance. There is concern that current food aid stocks may not be sufficient to cover the increasing needs.

The outlook for the 2003 first season foodcrops, to be harvested towards the end of the year, is poor reflecting dry weather in September and first two dekads of October, which resulted in reductions in the area planted to beans and maize. Although the final result will depend on the rains in the remaining weeks of the growing season, the number of people in need of food assistance is likely to increase as production is anticipated to be reduced in several areas.

In Rwanda, despite a satisfactory overall food supply situation following a good 2002 B season harvest, recent vulnerability assessment undertaken locally by WFP and FEWS NET in chronically food deficit high-altitudes areas of Kibuye, Gisenyi, Gikongoro and Ruhengeri provinces, and in some districts of Butare province, where last season's harvest was poor, found that vulnerable populations are experiencing serious food difficulties. The assessment estimated that some 274 000 people are in need of food assistance until the next harvest at the end of the year, as their food reserves and coping mechanisms are becoming exhausted.

The early outlook for the 2003 first season crops, to be harvested towards the end of the year, is poor reflecting a late start of the rainy season. The output is likely to decline due to reduced and delayed plantings.


In the Sahel, the 2002/03 food outlook is mixed. A long dry spell from early July through August severely affected crops in Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal, causing sharp falls in crop production. By contrast, in the central and eastern parts of the Sahel (the main cereal producing countries), crop growing conditions were more favourable, despite an erratic start of the rainy season which necessitated replantings in most areas.

A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions to the 9 CILSS member countries in October estimated aggregate 2002 cereal production at 11.3 million tonnes, 3 percent lower than 2001 but 11 percent above the average of the previous five years. Burkina Faso had a very good year, but poor harvests are estimated in Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. Compared to 2001, output declined significantly in Chad, The Gambia and Senegal but was similar in Mali and Niger.

The food supply situation is anticipated to be tight in 2003, following the reduced harvests. It should also be noted that despite the generally good harvests in most Sahelian countries in 2001, access to food has been difficult for some sections of the population following a sharp rise in millet prices in most markets. The rural populations have been the most affected as millet is their most important staple. Although national coarse grain deficits in the 2002/03 are expected to be covered by commercial imports of rice and wheat, prices of local cereals are likely to stay high.

In Mauritania, the food supply situation gives cause for serious concern following three consecutive poor cereal harvests. A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country from 20 to 26 October, estimated the 2002 aggregate cereal production at about 100 000 tonnes, over 40 percent lower than the average for the previous five years and 18 percent below last year's poor harvest. The 'dieri' crop, which accounts for more than 80 percent of planted area and about 60 percent of total cereal production in a normal year, decreased by 80 percent compared to last year.

The mission estimated cereal import requirement for the marketing year 2002/03 (November/October) at 322 534 tonnes, mostly wheat and rice. Taking into account anticipated commercial cereal imports of 228 000 tonnes and 11 000 tonnes of food aid pledges, the uncovered cereal deficit for the year is about 95 000 tonnes which needs to be covered by additional food aid pledges. Approximately 400 000 people throughout Mauritania will require emergency food assistance. Emergency provision of agricultural inputs such as seeds is also recommended to enable disaster-affected farming families to resume agricultural production in the next main planting season starting in June 2003.

Elsewhere in western Africa, the food outlook in Côte d'Ivoire is bleak, following an outbreak of civil strife on 19 September 2002. In Abidjan, thousands of people have been displaced and most have insufficient access to basic needs including food. In Bouake, worsening conditions including lack of food supplies have prompted many residents to leave. According to the Red Cross, between 150 000 and 200 000 residents have fled the town, whose population used to be about 600 000. Thousands of immigrants from neighbouring countries have been forced to return to their original homes.

Moreover, well below normal rainfall in September and October affected the second maize crop. A reduction in rice and other cereal production is forecast this year as a result of unfavourable weather coupled with the conflict that forced many farmers to leave their land.

WFP has launched a three-month emergency operation to assist 94 000 people affected by the conflict. The bulk of this operation will be inside Côte d'Ivoire, with assistance also provided to neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana.

In Guinea, harvest prospects are good, although rainfall was generally below average at the beginning of the rainy season. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory following favourable harvests in 2000 and 2001. The presence of a large refugee population and the persistent instability in neighbouring countries, have exacted a heavy toll on the country. According to WFP, some 30 000 new Liberian refugees have entered the country since the beginning of this year. Additionally, new refugees have entered Guinea from Côte d'Ivoire since September. The country also has some 82 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) following armed clashes in and around the country over the period September 2000 - March 2001.

In Liberia, as a result of persistent armed clashes in the north, north-west and central regions, there are 184 000 IDPs currently living in camps in other parts of the country. WFP, which has expressed concern about the increasing number of IDPs, continues to provide food assistance to them, in addition to more than 22 000 Sierra Leonean refugees still in the country. While access to those living in areas under Government control, has improved the situation remains difficult for those in contested areas where insecurity and violence hamper provision of humanitarian assistance.

In Sierra Leone, the renewed conflict in Liberia has caused at least 40 000 Liberians to cross into the country since the beginning of the year, while some 39 000 Sierra Leoneans who had been living in camps in Liberia and 15 000 who had lived outside camps returned home as fighting intensified. In spite of below average rainfall, harvest prospects are generally favourable reflecting an improved security situation, increased plantings by returning refugees and farmers previously displaced, as well as improved distribution of agricultural inputs.


Sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirement, including food aid, in 2002/03 is expected to increase, reflecting seriously reduced harvests in southern and eastern Africa and parts of the Sahel. For the 24 countries which have already entered the 2002/03 marketing year, GIEWS preliminary estimates of 2002 production and 2002/03 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 1. The final amount of the increase in import and food aid requirements will depend on the outcome of the current season in the remaining 24 countries.


Over 40 million people in sub-Saharan Africa need food assistance as shown in the following table:

Eastern Africa 19.3 million
Southern Africa 16.7 million
Western Africa 2 million
Central Africa 2.75 million

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