13 March 2003, Rome --
Almost two million people are facing serious food shortages in
five countries west of the Sahel, FAO said, as it renewed its
appeal for funds for emergency projects in the area.
Drought and poor harvests in Cape Verde, the Gambia,
Mali, Mauritania and Senegal as well as political instability in
Côte d'Ivoire, have combined to leave many people in need
of urgent food assistance.
whole series of factors have created a situation where people
who were normally self-sufficient and could buy their own food
can no longer do so," explained Anne M. Bauer, Director
for FAO's Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation.
A joint FAO and World Food Programme (WFP)
appeal last December for $28 million for the area has so far
received only 23 percent of the total and the situation
continues to deteriorate.
A recent joint mission to
the region by FAO and the Permanent Interstate Committee for
Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) estimated that there is a
total cereal deficit of 611 350 tonnes in the area.
"The lean period, when family food stocks
have been depleted, normally begins in June or July but it has
already started in many parts of West Africa," Bauer
Drought in Senegal, for example, has
shrivelled harvests of peanuts, a crop used by many farmers to
raise money to buy food, and forced up the prices of other
staple crops. The peanut harvest is down over 70 percent from a
year ago and over half of all households living in rural areas
are short of food.
taking drastic measures like eating fewer, smaller meals which
makes them more vulnerable to illness, and selling off their
livestock and belongings which deprives them of security for the
future," Bauer added.
Mauritania some 600 000 people face food shortages and, with the
current levels of estimated harvests and pledges of aid, the
country is expected to meet only two thirds of its cereal needs.
In Mali, bordering war-torn Côte
d'Ivoire, over 130 000 people who had settled there are
fleeing back across the border and arriving empty-handed,
dependent on their families and on aid.
The influx of refugees risks worsening an economic
situation where already 73 percent of the population live on
less than a dollar a day. Mali has the worst cereal deficit of
the area with some 213 000 tonnes of cereals needed.
Erratic rain in the Gambia has seriously affected more
than 360 000 people, mostly in rural areas. FAO is seeking funds
for vegetable production and water management projects, as part
of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security.
WFP and FAO's emergency projects will include
food aid and seeds, tools and fertilizer distribution for
immediate short-term relief for affected households. FAO is also
planning to provide technical assistance on irrigation to
address longer-term food
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570