Food security outlook is bleak in several parts of the Great Lakes Region. Pockets of famine could develop in eastern Zaire as relief distribution continues to be hampered by continuing hostilities and logistic difficulties. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees and sections of the local population are inaccessible to relief agencies and are caught in the middle of the fighting in the conflict zone. Deaths from malnutrition and disease are already reported from some camps. Only urgent action by the international community to ensure uninterrupted flow of relief assistance to the trapped refugees will avert further human suffering and loss of life. In Rwanda, the recent sudden influx of more than 1.2 million returning refugees has put the fragile food supply situation under great strain, while in neighbouring Burundi, the continuing socio-political crisis and the on-going economic embargo have seriously undermined food production. In Uganda, displacement of local people and Sudanese refugees in the north of the country has resulted in serious food supply problems, while in Tanzania some 280 000 people need food assistance following a poor harvest in 1996.
Poor secondary season harvests are being gathered in eastern Africa and the food supply situation is tightening in several parts of the sub-region. In Kenya, a food emergency has been declared in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country where crop failures due to drought have been experienced. The country�s food security is further threatened by an outbreak of rinderpest. In Somalia, dry weather conditions coupled with the continuing insecurity in many areas have led to a tight food supply situation, while in Eritrea, another poor harvest has been gathered as a result of insufficient rains. Elsewhere in eastern Africa, bumper harvests have been gathered in Ethiopia and Sudan, although food deficits persist in some parts. Donor assisted local purchases are required in both countries to meet the requirements in the deficit areas.
The food supply situation is stable in most Sahelian countries, but localized deficits persist. Reflecting generally favourable growing conditions, average to above-average harvests have been gathered in most Sahelian countries except in Cape Verde, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania where output is estimated to be below average. The aggregate cereal production in the nine CILSS member countries is estimated at 8.9 million tons which is 2 percent up on 1995. Above-average output has been reaped in Niger and Senegal, while average outputs were recorded in Burkina Faso, Mali and The Gambia. However, some regions in certain countries gathered poor harvests, in particular in northern Chad and in parts of Mali, Mauritania and Niger. In the coastal countries, average to above-average harvests are anticipated as a result of favourable growing conditions, and aggregate cereal output in the nine coastal countries is estimated at 27.3 million tons, 7 percent above last year�s harvest. However, in Liberia the food supply situation remains precarious while in Sierra Leone the situation is gradually improving following the signing of a peace agreement.
In southern Africa, harvest prospects are favourable so far, following good rains since the start of the season, but Red Locusts pose a serious threat to crops in several countries. Locust swarms originating from Mozambique have been reported in several countries including Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Several countries need donor support for the purchase and movement of local surpluses to deficit areas. GIEWS assessments indicate that donor support is needed for purchases and internal distribution of surpluses in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Senegal. Exportable surpluses are also available in some countries which can be purchased by donors for supply to the food-deficit countries in the region through triangular transactions or swap arrangements.
Sub-Saharan Africa�s cereal import requirements are expected to fall in 1996/97, mainly as a result of generally improved main cereal harvests in the Sahelian countries, parts of the Horn of Africa and the favourable crop prospects in southern Africa. Nevertheless, for the food-deficit countries, continuing balance of payments difficulties will mean that food aid requirements will remain high. While 1996/97 pledges have been substantial, several countries have large uncovered deficits.