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Monday, September 20, 1999


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Africa hunger crisis affects millions - WFP
11:19 a.m. Sep 20, 1999 Eastern

By Alistair Lyon

CAIRO, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Millions of Africans are suffering from shortage of food but the crisis is worst in war-torn Angola, according to U.N. officials.

Angola may, indeed, be the worst place in the world for a child to be born, they say.

``There are very severe emergencies in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Angola, which UNICEF says is the worst place on earth for a child to live,'' Catherine Bertini, executive director of the World Food Programme, said on Monday.

Bertini was addressing a news conference in Cairo for the formal opening of the WFP's regional Middle East and North Africa office, which was transferred from Rome a year ago.

In the Middle East, extra efforts were needed to meet the nutritional needs of vulnerable people such as pregnant women and young children in Iraq, especially in government-held areas, she said.

``Millions of people (in Africa) are cut off from food,'' she added, noting that the lack of access to most of Angola forced the WFP to use the costly option of distributing supplies by air.

Difficulties persisted in the Great Lakes region despite some reconstruction in Rwanda and there were problems in getting food to the needy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Access was also a headache in Sierra Leone, where she said people were ``in very dire circumstances'' after the civil war.

Security risks had prevented international staffers from returning to Somalia, flight bans had made it impossible to keep up a regular delivery programme and costs were extremely high.

Bertini said the food situation in southern Sudan was better than a year ago, but periodic flight bans and continuous ceasefire violations made it hard for the U.N.-led Operation Lifeline Sudan to reach many parts of the war-ravaged country.

``There is no stable food situation in Sudan and there won't be one until there is peace,'' she declared.

But conditions had improved markedly in some African states such as Ethiopia and Mozambique.

``There is lots of positive news,'' Bertini said.

Countries like Botswana and Namibia no longer needed food aid and Ghana was progressing on the same track. Ethiopia had made great strides since the famines of the 1980s, though it had recently suffered from drought, as well as having to cope with people displaced by its war with Eritrea.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.Reuters News Service
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