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Thirty-two countries face food emergencies

Thirty-two countries around the world are on FAO's exceptional food emergency list, according to the latest "Foodcrops and Shortages" report, published by the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

The report opens with the situation in southern Africa, where the worst floods in 40 years have devastated many countries, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded and homeless. "Southern Mozambique was the worst hit, with an estimated 300 000 people displaced," the report says.

Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS):

East Africa is suffering severe drought, and serious food supply problems are reported in several countries. In the worst affected area - the Bakool region in southern Somalia - many people have reportedly died of starvation. In West Africa, Liberia and Sierra Leone continue to depend on food aid, although other countries in the sub-region had good harvests in 1999.

In Asia, major relief operations continue in the North Eastern States of India, following a cyclone last October that killed thousands of people and left thousands more homeless. In Korea DPR, 5.6 million people are receiving food aid and more is needed as the lean season approaches. In East Timor, "international aid is urgently needed to rehabilitate agriculture and the economy on which future food security depends heavily."

In the CIS countries, the food security of the people trapped in Chechnya and the capital, Grozny, "is rapidly deteriorating and the outlook for winter grain and fodder crops is bleak," the report says. "The situation in agriculture is critical, with severe damage inflicted to the livestock and grape-growing industry." Many countries in the Balkans are suffering food supply problems, exacerbated by acute economic crises. In Kosovo province, food assistance continues to be provided to about 1 million people.

But the report is not all bad news. Asia has been spared major weather-related disasters so far, where the main wheat crop is in the ground in China, India and Pakistan, while prospects for main and second season rice are generally satisfactory. In the CIS countries in Asia, 1999 grain production is estimated to have increased by 7 million tonnes over 1998. In the Near East, recent rainfall has improved crop prospects, suggesting recovery from last year's devastating drought. In Europe, winter weather conditions have been generally favourable, and aggregate wheat area is estimated to have increased by around 5 percent. In most South American and Caribbean countries, production is expected to continue recovering, following the devastation caused by hurricane Mitch in late 1998. In Oceania, preliminary estimates indicate that Australia's 1999 winter wheat harvest was a bumper crop of about 23 million tonnes.

Foodcrops and Shortages is published six times a year. It provides country-by-country summaries of the most recent information on the production, trade, stocks and consumption of food commodities, as well as food aid requirements, pledges and actual deliveries.

14 March 2000

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