40 countries face food shortages worldwide
Darfur crisis most pressing humanitarian problem
9 October 2006, Rome -- Forty countries are facing food emergencies and require external assistance, with the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan still the most pressing humanitarian problem, according to an FAO report released today.
In Darfur, “the already precarious food supply situation may worsen if deteriorating security disrupts the main harvest due to start in the coming few weeks,” FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report warns.
Close monitoring of global food situation needed
Prospects for the 2006 world cereal harvest have deteriorated further since July, according to the report. Exceptionally hot and dry weather is adversely affecting the wheat crops in Australia, Argentina and Brazil, while drier-than-normal weather in parts of South Asia is also raising some concern for the second 2006 paddy crop.
FAO’s forecast for world cereal production in 2006 now stands at about 2 013 million tonnes, almost 8 million tonnes down since the previous report in July and 1.6 percent less than the 2005 level.
“The main concern is the declining stocks and whether supplies will be adequate to meet demand without world prices surging to even higher levels,” the report says.
Low supplies call for a closer monitoring of the world food situation, FAO says. Despite good crops in many of the low-income food-deficit countries, this year’s anticipated sharp fall in global stocks may lead to a more precarious situation next season should weather problems prevent an increase in world cereal production in 2007.
The early outlook for the northern hemisphere’s main winter cereal crops for harvest in 2007 is generally favourable so far. Planting is reported to be proceeding well in Europe, and in the United States, where a large expansion in wheat area is expected.
While the situation in Darfur remains the most critical, elsewhere in Eastern Africa, despite improved prospects for the 2006/07 crops in some areas, floods, erratic rains and conflict-related displacement have negatively affected the food situation. Most of the region’s pastoral areas have yet to recover from the successive poor rains that severely affected livestock and resulted in acute food shortages and migration of thousands of people in search of water and food.
In Somalia, a severe food crisis is expected to persist throughout the country for the rest of 2006, affecting at least 1.8 million people.
In spite of a satisfactory food supply situation, serious localized food insecurity due mostly to access problems is reported in several West African countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Emergency food assistance continues to be needed in Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees.
The majority of the population of the Central African Republic is facing food insecurity following disruption in production and marketing activities as a result of civil strife.
Despite a significant improvement in the 2006 main crops compared to last year, emergency food aid of about 542 000 tonnes of cereals is required in Southern Africa due largely to inadequate production, high unemployment, low purchasing power and the cumulative impact of HIV/AIDS.
In Zimbabwe, where inflation was officially estimated at 1 205 percent in July 2006 and, according to the International Monetary Fund, is expected to reach over 4000 percent next year, 1.4 million rural people - about 17 percent of the total rural population - will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2006/07 season.
Despite economic growth and increased oil revenues in Angola, some 800 000 vulnerable people are estimated to require about 58 000 tonnes of cereal assistance. In the Great Lakes region, the continuing civil strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has left large numbers of people in need of food assistance. Food aid is also needed in Burundi following the reduced 2006 harvest, combined with resettlement of returnees and IDPs.
Reduced food aid and crop damage due to floods in July has increased the severity of food insecurity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In Timor-Leste, hundreds of thousands of people affected by civil unrest still need food assistance.
Over 45 000 people affected by drought and floods in Nepal have received relief assistance. Unprecedented floods caused by several weeks of torrential rain have left millions of people in India and Pakistan homeless and in need of food assistance. In China, the worst drought in 50 years has affected more than 3 million hectares of crops in Sichuan and Chongqing.
In Iraq, conflict and insecurity continues to displace hundreds of thousands people. Drought and unusually high temperatures have compromised food production in Afghanistan and Armenia. In addition, increased military operations and conflict over the past year in Afghanistan have further exacerbated food insecurity in the country.
Food aid is still being provided to some vulnerable rural families affected by hurricanes during the second half of 2005 in El Salvador and Guatemala. It is also being distributed to populations without access to food in Haiti, Nicaragua and Honduras.
Information Officer, FAO
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Countries facing food crises
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