ROME, 19 November 2002 -- More than 60 million people are currently affected by food emergencies and are in need of assistance, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO launched an appeal for a total of around US$88.5 million to carry out agriculture relief aid in 17 crisis countries and regions in the next year.

FAO is responsible for the agricultural part of the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeals 2003, which were launched today.

"Our call for funds is based on conservative estimates," said Fernanda Guerrieri, Chief of the Emergency Operations Service. "We are calling for the real minimum in priority countries where the needs are biggest. These countries are either in a critical post-conflict situation or suffering from a combination of conflicts and natural disasters."

"The distribution of seeds, tools, fertilizers and veterinary drugs and the provision of basic technical assistance give people in the poorest countries the chance to regain their self-sufficiency. People want to produce their own food. They don't want to be dependent on food aid."

Agriculture sometimes tends to be overlooked by the donor community, Guerrieri said. "Agriculture is a complex sector which often doesn't yield immediate results. But agriculture is what rural people know and rely on. The development of agriculture in the most vulnerable countries which provides the basis of people's survival and can contribute to peace and stability."

In particular, FAO seeks international assistance for (*):

Sudan

Civil strife and adverse weather is set to exacerbate an already poor food security situation in southern Sudan. Large numbers of people have been displaced and hundreds of thousands cut off from humanitarian access. Already an estimated 3 million internally displaced, drought-affected and vulnerable people in different parts of the country depend on food assistance. Recent reports indicate that food supply prospects in western and eastern parts of the country have started to deteriorate due to drought conditions.

FAO is seeking support for the provision of quality seeds, improved agricultural technology such as animal-drawn ploughs and basic farm tools to benefit 1.9 million food insecure people, of whom 1.5 million live in southern Sudan. Others projects will aim to increase crop production in drought-affected areas, to deliver community-based animal health services and to rehabilitate the fisheries sector.
    Total amount required: US$19 million


Angola

Some 4.3 million people are currently estimated to be at risk in Angola. Most have been internally displaced during the almost three decade long armed conflict. Harvests are inadequate, incomes limited and access to markets and services is lacking. This year's appeal stresses the need for a timely and effective distribution of agricultural inputs, good quality seed production, animal breeding, support to small fisheries and land allocation to returned internally displaced persons.
    Total amount required: US$12.7 million


Democratic Republic of Congo

The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have suffered severe malnutrition since the beginning of the war. Food production continues to be disrupted by the civil war, particularly in eastern parts. Ongoing conflict and displacement, decreased economic activity and a deterioration of social services have made it difficult for large segments of the population to meet their most basic needs.

For 2003, FAO proposes the following activities to support the weakest and most vulnerable people: distribution of agricultural and fishing tools; support to households with children in feeding centres; production and distribution ofqualityseedsand breedingof small animals; rehabilitation of agricultural roads and aquaculture.
    Total amount required: US$12.4 million


Uganda

After years of conflict, displacement and drought, many vulnerable people are still in need of assistance. Better access to improved agricultural inputs (seeds and tools), new technology and training are needed in order to increase food production.

FAO proposes to provide inputs to households headed by women and the elderly and to rural households affected by HIV/AIDS. The distribution of cassava varieties could help to increase food production of around 500 000 internally displaced people.
    Total amount required: US$3.8 million

Sierra Leone

After ten years of civil conflict, food production remains low in Sierra Leone and livestock has been decimated. Household food insecurity and malnutrition are high, exacerbated by the spread of HIV/AIDS. The outcome of peaceful elections in 2002 has led to greater stability, but the massive influx of refugees from Liberia has increased tensions in camps and surrounding areas.

FAO's objective is to help restore food production to pre-war levels and to reduce food aid dependence by providing internally displaced persons, refugees and host communities with agricultural inputs and training in good farming practices. Emergency assistance will also contribute to restore services in the sectors of seed multiplication, fish processing, animal health and blacksmithery.
    Total amount required: US$3.1 million

Somalia

The food security situation in Somalia remains unstable because of successive years of drought and insecurity. Recent escalation of conflict has displaced large numbers of people. The embargo on livestock imports from Somalia to countries along the Arabian Peninsula has hindered livestock exports, one of the major sources of income for the Somali pastoralists.

To improve the situation of poor farmers, pastoralists and displaced people, FAO proposes projects to provide access to new varieties of seeds, to improve livestock production and to assist returnees from Ethiopia and internally displaced people.
    Total amount required: US$2.3 million

Eritrea

Rainfall has been very poor since October 2001, threatening the food security of thousands of farmers and pastoralists. The cereal harvest is expected to be around 70 percent below the average of the last 10 years. This would cover only 12 percent of the food required. Eritrea is just recovering from a devastating border war with Ethiopia. A large number of people are still displaced and thousands of farmers are yet to be demobilized. FAO is particularly concerned for the more than one million most vulnerable people, about one third of the country's population.

FAO seeks funds to provide seeds, fertilizers, animal feed and veterinary equipment to the most vulnerable farm families to reduce their dependence on food aid.
    Total amount required: US$1.9 million

Tajikistan

Tajikistan, recovering from civil war and drought, continues to face a precarious and complex humanitarian situation. Around 85 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and chronic malnutrition is widespread, leaving nearly one third of all children stunted.

Agriculture is still the main source of food and income. However, agricultural activities are hampered by scarce availability of productive land, limited inputs and dilapidated machinery and irrigation.

Donor assistance is needed to continue emergency assistance to food insecure households; to provide seeds, tools and fertilizers; to support irrigation and improvedwater management and to controllocust outbreaks and animal diseases. Special attention will be paid to women in rural areas who cannot produce sufficient food for their needs.
    Total amount required: US$2 million

Indonesia

While the national cereal supply positionis satisfactory, a large number of the poorest Indonesians, internally displaced people and refugees face hunger and malnutrition. Nearly 1.4 million people are still displaced after the crisis in 1999. Between 2 and 3 million people continue to live in the conflict affected areas or struggle to support internally displaced persons seeking refuge in their communities. Malnutrition rates are high even compared to the poorest countries in the world. Improved food security of the internally displaced will help to avert tension with the host communities.

FAO is planning to support resettling and returning families and host communities with basic agricultural kits, fishing gear and locally adapted food processing machines.
    Total amount required: US$1.3 million


(*) Countries and regions included in the appeal:
Sudan, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Burundi, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Uganda, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Guinea, Somalia, Tajikistan, Eritrea, Indonesia, North Caucasus, Liberia, Great Lakes.

FAO's Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division is currently active in more than 70 countries.