Serious concern about food situation in southern Africa
Nearly 12 million people are in need of assistance – FAO publishes new Africa report
13 December 2005, Rome – Food insecurity in southern Africa is of serious concern despite a bumper maize harvest in South Africa, according to the new Africa report published by FAO today.
Nearly 12 million people, mainly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, are in need of emergency food assistance.
However, South Africa has harvested a record maize crop of 12.4 million tonnes, estimated to result in a potential export surplus of about 4.66 million tonnes, more than enough to cover the sub-region’s import requirements.
In Zimbabwe, shortages of key farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and draft power are reported. Normally Zimbabwe requires about 50 000 tonnes of maize seed. Only half of this is currently estimated to be available locally. Fertilizer companies estimate that this year about 75 percent of last year’s much reduced amount of fertilizer may be available at much higher prices.
Access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain on the market and high inflation, coupled with fuel and transport problems which are exacerbating food insecurity. Between June and October this year the average maize price increased from about Z$2000 to about Z$8000 per kilogram. An estimated three million people will receive monthly rations of cereals and pulses from the World Food Programme.
In Malawi, food insecurity is worsening throughout the country as maize prices continue to rise. So far, commercial imports and food aid deliveries have been meagre in spite of the significant amounts pledged by international donors.
In eastern Africa, the 2005 harvest is generally better than last year and food availability is expected to improve in most countries of the sub-region. The overall food situation, however, remains precarious with high malnutrition rates reported in several countries arising from effects of war, displacement and past droughts.
In Somalia, the overall food security situation continues to be of concern with more than 900 000 people in need of urgent assistance. The situation is further aggravated by upsurges in hostilities in parts of southern Somalia and deteriorating security conditions that are hampering the distribution of relief assistance.
The food situation in Sudan is also alarming due to continued conflict and population displacement that have resulted in serious food insecurity, especially in Darfur and Southern Sudan.
In Eritrea, despite a higher crop production, about 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance.
In Ethiopia, crop prospects are favourable in the main producing regions. But household food availability is poor and high malnutrition rates, particularly for children, are of serious concern in some areas. The number of people in need of emergency food assistance is estimated at 3.8 million.
Good harvests are expected in the Sahel, following generally favourable weather conditions throughout the growing season.
However, the severe food crisis that hit the sub-region in 2004/05 had serious income, livelihoods and nutrition effects and resulted in depletion of household assets including loss of animals, as well as high levels of indebtedness, notably in Niger and parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. In Côte d’Ivoire, insecurity and the de facto partition of the country continue to disrupt agricultural production and marketing activities.
In Central Africa, crop prospects and food security outlook are unfavourable in several countries due mainly to civil strife and insecurity. Burundi has warned that a serious food crisis is looming in the northern and eastern provinces due to the unfavourable prospects for the 2006 first harvest.
Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005/06 are expected to remain high, the report said. Total food aid requirement in 2004/05 is estimated at about 3.3 million tonnes similar to 2003/04.
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27 countries require urgent assistance
Countries with overall food shortages:
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