Food emergencies update
In Western Africa, the cropping season has been slow to start with erratic rains in several parts of the Sahel including Guinea-Bissau, southern Niger and Burkina Faso, northern Nigeria and southern Chad, which may affect area planted and potential yield in these countries. Moreover, although a good cereal crop was gathered in most countries in 2008, the food security outlook remains a concern due to persisting high food prices.
Coarse grain prices have shown signs of stabilising over the past few months but, as of June, remained above the levels of a year ago. The situation is worse for imported rice, a major staple, whose price is determined by the international market.
In Ghana and Niger for example, prices of imported rice were still 23 percent and 35 percent higher respectively in June 2009 than a year earlier in spite of the fall in international prices. This situation will continue to affect consumers' purchasing power and access to food across the subregion. Therefore, safety net interventions, such as targeted distribution, sales at subsidized prices, food for work or cash for work activities, are recommended during the lean season, depending on the extent of food supply in specific areas.
In Eastern Africa, an estimated 19.8 million people are in need of emergency assistance due to consecutive seasons of poor harvests, above-average cereal prices, civil strife or combination of these factors. Late and erratic rains throughout most of the region, in particular across eastern parts during the main growing season from March to July, coupled with persistent above average cereal prices, are expected to further exacerbate the situation.
In Somalia , the persistent civil conflict continues to negatively impact the food security situation as well as disrupt the distribution of essential food aid. Poor rains during the main "gu" season have intensified drought conditions and worsened livestock conditions. This has severely impacted the food security of about 700 000 pastoralists in Mudug, Galgadud, Nugal, Sool, Sanag and Togdher, whose sources of food and income are inextricably linked to livestock production. Across Somalia, an estimated 3.5 million people require emergency assistance. In Kenya, an estimated 3.5 million people require emergency food assistance; including 870 000 children who are benefiting from the School Feeding Programme and 2.6 million affected by drought. Below-average rains in the south east and coastal regions, in combination with above-average cereal prices that are eroding households' purchasing power,are expected to lead to a deterioration of the food security situation for marginal agriculturalists and pastoralists.
In Eritrea, above-average food prices are negatively affecting an estimated 2 million people, with high rates of acute malnutrition (above the emergency threshold of 15 percent) recorded in Gash Barka and Anseba in February 2009. In Ethiopia, an anticipated poor "belg" harvestis expected to aggravate the situation further in the belg dependant areas of SNNPR, as well as parts of Oromyia and Amhara. Localized insecurity in parts is also contributing to the poor food security conditions. It is currently estimated that 4.9 million people require emergency food assistance (early indications from on-going belg assessments imply that this number may increase). In Sudan, the continuation of civil conflict in southern Sudan and Darfur is worsening the dire food security situation already faced by millions. Food aid distributions are targeting 3.8 million conflict-affected people in Darfur, while, overall an estimated 5.9 million people require food assistance in Sudan. In Djibouti, food aid distributions are continuing to maintain basic food supplies in rural inland areas and in Djibouti city. Poor rains from March to May have lead to water deficits, affecting the pastoralist population throughout inland areas.
In Uganda, approximately 1.1 million people require food assistance in Karamoja, following successive periods of drought and civil insecurity. Outbreaks of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) and crop diseases, including the Cassava Mosaic Disease, are also contributing to the poor food security conditions.
In Southern Africa, despite a generally improved food security situation throughout the subregion following good harvests, some pockets of vulnerability and food insecurity persist. An FAO/WFP CFSAM to Zimbabwe has estimated that some 2.8 million people in the country require food aid amounting to about 228 000 tonnes including 150 000 tonnes of maize and 30 000 tonnes of other cereals. A similar FAO/WFP Mission in Namibia reported that 163 000 people in northern communal areas, where crops and livestock have been severely affected by floods, will require immediate assistance to cover their basic food needs.
Assessments by several national Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) are currently underway and the new estimates will be available shortly. Several import dependent countries in the region are also particularly vulnerable to high food and fuel prices domestically and internationally. In Lesotho and Swaziland widespread poverty and the impact of HIV/AIDS have led to serious food insecurity.
In the Great Lakes region, the continued uncertain security situation in the north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo affects large numbers of people who require food and agricultural assistance. High food prices of basic staples such as cassava (flour), beans, maize among others, are negatively affecting large numbers of households in Burundi and food and agricultural aid is needed , especially for resettling returnees and IDPs.
In the Far East, bumper winter/first rice crops are almost harvested in the major producing countries, and food supply situations are satisfactory in many countries of the subregion. However, millions of people continue to face serious food insecurity due to conflict, civil strife, below-average harvests, cyclones, or a combination of these factors. In Nepal, more than 2 million people face a precarious food situation as a result of crop failure due to winter drought. The food security of more than 4 million people in Bangladesh has been affected by the devastating cyclone Aila, which hit the southwestern coast of Bangladesh on 25 May.
Some 3 million people in Pakistan's northwest region have reportedly been displaced due to civil conflict, with an estimated 3 million people currently needing food assistance. Around 300 000 people in Sri Lanka were displaced and have been housed in government-run camps, following the cessation of the conflict between the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) and the government in May. In Myanmar, agricultural assistance continues to be needed for the summer season and the current monsoon season to help small farmers recover their production and livelihoods in the areas affected by cyclone Nargis. The food security situation of more than 6 million vulnerable people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is expected to worsen during the lean period before the November harvest due to reductions in food aid deliveries.
In the Near East, the effects of last year's severe drought are still being felt in several countries. In Syrian Arab Republic, preliminary conclusions of an FAO/WFP pre-harvest mission in April/May in the areas affected by the drought indicated that the vulnerability of the population is still a concern. The report of a follow up mission in June/July organised by FAO's Emergency Coordination Unit to review the drought impact and identify any assistance required, especially for small holder farmers and livestock herders, is expected soon.
An Emergency Operation (EMOP) to assist 40 000 households (200 000 people) affected by drought which is worth USD 5.2 million was extended in time for six months until the end of December 2009 without changes in the budget. The food situation in the Gaza Strip continues to be of concern as much of the population has been affected severely by conflict during the 20-day period starting on 27 December 2008. In view of this, an EMOP was jointly approved by FAO and WFP to provide food assistance to 365 000 most affected people, including social hardship cases, vulnerable groups, internally-displaced people and affected farmers over a period of 12 months (20 January 2009 to 19 January 2010).
In Central America and the Caribbean, cereal prices are either stable or declining from the peaks achieved in mid-2008. However, since many countries are in the hunger season, which will last until arrival of the new harvest in August, prices are likely to go up again, with negative impact on the food security of the most vulnerable people, especially in poor urban areas. In Haiti, the good production of 2008 winter staple foods, coupled with the gradual reduction in market prices and the implementation of safety net programs, is leading to a considerable reduction of the food insecure population.