Nearly 20 million people in east Africa face severe food crisis

Nearly 20 million people in east Africa face severe food crisis

 

ROME, Wednesday, August 16 9:32 PM SGT (AFP)

 

The number of people facing serious food shortages in eastern Africa has risen to nearly 20 million, three million more than in

April, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Wednesday.

 

Continuing drought has undermined food production in vast areas of eastern Africa, but war and civil strife are also severely limiting farming activities in many areas, the UN agency said in a report on the food supply situation and crop prospects in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

The report warned that "large numbers of people will need massive and continued emergency assistance" well into next year.

 

Sixteen countries face exceptional food emergencies in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Most of the worst affected countries, including Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan are suffering from the impact of war or civil conflicts.

 

Others, like Kenya and Tanzania, have been hard hit by drought.

 

The 16 countries facing food emergencies of varying intensity are: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the

Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan,

Tanzania and Uganda.

 

The agency estimated that in Kenya nearly 3.3 million people need urgent food aid.

 

Some starvation-related deaths have been reported among children in the hardest hit areas of the country.

 

Livestock farmers are of particular concern because they are facing the failure of the fourth consecutive rainy season.

 

The current drought has aggravated an already severe scarcity of water and pasture, resulting in large livestock losses.

 

"With the exception of parts of Western province and Nyanza province," the report said, "the rest of the country, including the 'bread-basket' rift Valley province, has received little or no rainfall, leading to widespread crop failures, as well as large livestock losses."

 

The long drought has drained water reservoirs and the government has rationed power and water.

 

In Eritrea, the report said, "the food supply situation gives cause for serious concern."

 

More than 1.5 million people are displaced in Eritrea, including those who fled their homes in May and June this year because of renewed fighting along the border with Ethiopia.

 

This has further aggravated an already precarious food supply situation.

 

In Ethiopia, large numbers of people are now depending solely on food assistance for survival because they have lost their livestock and livelihoods due to drought.

 

According to the report, malnutrition is on the rise and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported.

 

Serious malnutrition has also been reported in parts of Somalia.

 

The FAO cited the loss of livelihoods due to recurring droughts, the long-term effects of civil insecurity and a lack of investment in the economy as underlying causes.

 

In Sudan, where the food supply situation is stable in general, the report said nearly 2.4 million people, mostly in the south of the country, are depending on food aid in the wake of crop losses and population displacements caused by civil strife.

 

Tens of thousands of refugees have also crossed into Sudan fleeing the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

 

Some areas in Tanzania have acute food shortages.

 

The government has declared 13 of 20 mainland regions drought-affected and the FAO report said more than 800,000 people in the country need food assistance.

 

Serious food supply difficulties persist in the Great Lakes region where the Democratic Republic of Congo is suffering from an increasingly tense military situation, following greater involvement in the conflict by neighboring countries.

 

In Burundi, insufficient and badly distributed rains have reduced yields of cereal and pulse crops.

 

Elsewhere in Africa, the picture is considerably brighter.

 

In Angola, however, the food situation of some 2.6 million internally displaced persons is said to be "precarious."

 

In western Africa, the overall food supply situation is stable following above average or record crops in most countries last season, except in Guinea-Bissau due to civil strife.

 

The report said that the early growing conditions in the current season are also favorable, but added that agricultural activities in Sierra Leone had been disrupted by renewed civil strife following the breakdown of last year's peace accord.

 

Sierra Leone and Liberia remain heavily dependent on international food assistance.