7 May 2003, Rome -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a report released today called for more food aid pledges and accelerated emergency food deliveries in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Mauritania to avert possible famines.

Calling overall harvest prospects in southern Africa "generally favourable" with the exceptions of Zimbabwe, parts of Swaziland and southern Mozambique, the report warned that food and crop prospects in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa remain unfavourable with 25 countries facing food emergencies.*

That number remains unchanged since FAO issued its last report on the region in December 2002.

Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa reports that the food supply situation in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Zimbabwe, remains grim mainly due to severe droughts in previous agricultural seasons. The report also calls for "specific measures," such as feeding and watering points and easier access to markets, to provide relief to the livestock sector.

The escalation and/or continuing conflict in a number of countries, including Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Liberia, has aggravated food insecurity by disrupting agricultural activities.

There has been widespread destruction of assets, looting and population displacement in the Central African Republic, which suggests reduced food production for this year. In the Republic of Congo, a resurgence of fighting in the areas surrounding the capital of Brazzaville has displaced at least 84 000 people. An Ebola outbreak in the Cuvette region has further aggravated the humanitarian situation.

For the many countries affected by conflict and adverse weather, including Angola, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe, the report calls for agricultural rehabilitation assistance that provides such things as seeds, hand-tools and fertilizer to help farmers resume agricultural production.

In southern Africa, the report says that farmers need help in marketing any available surplus under favourable conditions, and in preparing for next cropping season.

The report indicates that cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2003 are expected to remain high, reflecting mainly the effects of last year's droughts in southern, eastern and western Africa. FAO puts the total food aid requirement at 4.6 million tonnes, against the 2 million tonnes it estimated in 2001/02.

Cereal food aid pledges for 2002/03, including those carried over from 2001/02, amount to 2.1 million tonnes of which 1.7 million tonnes have so far been delivered.

Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa is based on information collected by FAO from various sources in the field, including UN agency staff, governments, non-governmental organizations and representatives of the Southern African Development Conference (SADC) and the Comité Permanent Inter-Etats de lutte contre la sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS). Additional and more detailed information will be available once ongoing joint FAO/World Food Programme Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions to Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are completed.

*The 25 countries facing food emergencies are:
Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
John Riddle
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53259