24 sub-Saharan African countries face food emergencies
Some 30.5 million people will need food assistance
28 September 2005 Rome - Most regions in sub-Saharan Africa continue to need some food assistance, but the situation is worst in southern Africa, where about 12 million people need immediate emergency food following a poor cereal harvest earlier this year, according to a report issued today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
A total of 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are listed in FAO's Africa Report as facing food emergencies,* caused by problems ranging from civil strife and war to adverse weather and economic crisis.
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe will all need emergency food assistance as early as November following a poor cereal harvest earlier this year, the report says.
In Malawi, the report estimates the number of people facing food shortages at 4.6 million, about 40 percent of the population, due mainly to rising maize prices.
In Zimbabwe, the report indicates that the number of people facing food shortages could possiblly reach 3 million and warns that prospects for 2006 are seriously threatened by the short supply and high costs of farm inputs such as seeds, fuel and fertilizer.
South Africa has fared much better with a good maize harvest, and the resulting closing stocks of 5.1 million tonnes, as of 30 June 2005, are more than enough to cover the subregion's maize import requirements.
The 2005 main season harvest of cereal crops is ending in southern parts of eastern Africa, while in northern areas crops are at varying stages of development. Despite beneficial rains and favourable crop prospects in some parts, the report warns "the food situation remains precarious for a large number of people with high malnutrition rates reported in several countries."
The food situation in Sudan is particularly alarming due to prolonged conflict, especially in Darfur and in southern Sudan. According to the report, access to food is worsening for returnees and poor households in parts of southern Sudan and the continued crisis in Greater Darfur remains the most pressing humanitarian problem.
Similarly, in Somalia, recent assessments indicate that the poor 2005 main season harvest in southern Somalia, forecast at 44 percent below average, coupled with an upsurge in civil strife have exacerbated the food situation. Overall, nearly one million people need humanitarian assistance.
Eritrea and Ethiopia are expected to have generally favourable main cropping seasons for 2005. However, a large number of people still depend on food assistance due to the lingering effects of earlier drought and/or war, according to the report.
Western Africa's crop prospects are said to be "generally good" in the Sahel. But, the report says, "The Sahel and northern parts of several coastal countries continue to face a difficult lean season, due mainly to unusually high food prices."
Crops in Niger are developing satisfactorily thanks to generally widespread rainfall and adequate soil moisture. The report says, "Overall harvest prospects are favourable."
In Sierra Leone, despite heavy rains and flooding in the south, agriculture continues to improve following the end of the civil war in 2002.
Civil strife and insecurity in central Africa still undermine food security in several countries, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the report says food insecurity affects over 70 percent of the population of 57 million.
Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005/06 are expected to remain high. The total food aid requirement in 2004/05 is estimated at about 3.2 million tonnes. Cereal food aid pledges for 2004/05, including those carried over from 2003/04, amount to 2.8 million tonnes, of which the report says 2 million tonnes have been delivered.
*The 24 countries facing food emergencies are:
Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Information Officer, FAO
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