Production up in Africa but food shortages persist

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Severe food shortages and emergencies continue to grip several countries in sub-Saharan Africa despite a general improvement in food supplies, and conditions could worsen unless action is speedily taken to deliver food assistance to the most affected countries, says FAO in a special report.

Liberia, Burundi and Somalia are hardest hit and head a list of 13 countries facing food supply difficulties of various intensities, according to the FAO report.

"Pockets of famine have developed in parts of Liberia," says the report, "following a sharp reduction in food production and serious disruption of relief distributions." Severe malnutrition and deaths from starvation-related causes have been reported.

The causes of food shortages vary from region to region, including civil strife, adverse weather, population displacement and localized crop failures. Although overall food supplies in sub-Saharan Africa have improved -- reflecting mainly a recovery in cereal production in southern Africa -- food assistance is still needed in parts of the subregion.

"There is a pressing need for large-scale national and international intervention to bring about a rapid improvement in the region's food security situation," says Abdur Rashid, head of FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System.

The report calls on the international community to focus on:

  • urgent delivery of emergency food assistance to Liberia
  • provision of food assistance to the affected populations in the Sudan and Somalia
  • continued relief assistance to refugees and internally displaced people in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere
  • sustained assistance to help rebuild the agricultural sectors of countries such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The report points out that global food aid availabilities in 1996/97 are not expected to improve much from the low 1995/96 level of 7.7 million tonnes, which is certainly not enough to meet the needs of the region.

About 40 percent of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa is already chronically undernourished, that is about 215 million people. The number could rise to 265 million in the year 2010 unless action is taken to stem the current trend

18 October 1996

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