23 July 2003, Rome -- In sub-Saharan Africa, 23 countries are facing food emergencies, according to a new report released by FAO today.

The countries 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, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The main reasons for emergencies are civil strife, drought, the internal displacement of people and economic disruption.


Western Africa

In Western Africa, food production and other economic activities in several coastal countries continue to be disrupted by civil strife.

In Liberia, persistent armed clashes that restrict access to most agricultural areas and cause mass population displacement are a major cause of food insecurity. Agricultural production is being disrupted by renewed fighting, pointing to a further drop in rice production this year.

Until recently, some 200 000 internally displaced persons from the north, northwest, and central regions were living in camps in the suburbs of Monrovia; following recent escalations of violence, most of them have fled to the city centre and are living in extremely difficult conditions and are dependent on food aid.

Although the overall security situation is improving in Côte d'Ivoire, the food situation remains critical, mainly in the rebel-controlled north and west. In the north, access to food is very difficult for cotton farmers who were unable to sell their crop because of the conflict.

In the west, which suffers continuing attacks against civilians and population displacement, and where renewed fighting in Liberia has led to a new influx of displaced persons, farm families have limited access to their fields because of insecurity. More than one million people have been displaced by the conflict.

In Mauritania, although emergency food aid distributions and subsidized sales of wheat have improved the food situation in the worst-hit regions, grain supplies remain tight and livestock prices are falling, seriously limiting access to food for pastoralists and farming households. Approximately 420 000 people need food assistance. Emergency provision of seeds will be necessary to enable drought-affected farming families to resume agricultural production.


Eastern Africa

In eastern Africa, heavy rains and floods earlier in the year in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia killed a number of people, displaced thousands, destroyed or damaged crops and increased the likelihood of serious localized food shortages.

In Eritrea, serious food shortages persist with as many as two-thirds of the country's population severely affected due to last year's drought. Of these, an estimated 1.4 million need emergency food assistance. In addition, humanitarian assistance continues to be needed for large numbers of people internally displaced by the recent war with neighbouring Ethiopia and returning refugees from Sudan.

In Ethiopia, the number of people in need of food assistance is now estimated at 12.5 million.

In Sudan, serious food shortages have emerged in several parts of the country. In southern Sudan, 1.9 million people will need food assistance until the next harvest.


Southern Africa

In southern Africa, the 2003 cereal production is forecast to increase by 6.6 percent over last year's average level to 21.6 million tonnes. Despite better harvests, southern Africa still requires a significant amount of food aid in the coming months.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major compounding factor in the sub-region's food security problems.

In Zimbabwe, cereal production remained well below normal levels, and 5.5 million people, or half of the country's total population, need emergency food aid. The impact of a severe drought was compounded by the prevailing social, economic and political problems. The large-scale farm sector produced only one-tenth of its 1990s output. The country faces a shortfall of close to 1.3 million tonnes of cereals.

In Mozambique, the overall cereal harvest was good but some 949 000 people mainly in the southern provinces will require food assistance due to near-total failure of the maize crop.

In Angola, the 2003 cereal production increased substantially reflecting good weather, increased plantings following the return of internally displaced people to rural areas, and improved distribution of agricultural inputs. However, food aid will continue to be required for 1.4 million people in 2003/04.


Central Africa

In Central Africa, civil strife and insecurity continue to undermine food security in several countries.

A serious humanitarian situation persists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to inter-ethnic violence. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands displaced. Favourable growing conditions notwithstanding, crop production is expected to be sharply reduced in the eastern and north-eastern parts following the escalation of civil war. Around 483 000 people will receive emergency food assistance from the World Food Programme.

In the Central African Republic, the food security situation is precarious; food production is not expected to increase this year due to persistent insecurity, notably in the north.

In Burundi and Rwanda, rains in late April and May improved conditions for the 2003 second season so good crops are in prospect. However, there were localized crop losses in some provinces due to unfavourable weather.

"Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa" is a report of the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).



Contact:
Erwin Northoff
Information Officer, FAO
erwin.northoff@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53105