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Burundi Need 40 Per Cent More Emergency Food

Burundi Will Need 40 Per Cent More Emergency Food This Year, UN Agencies Say

Burundi, recovering from a long civil conflict, will need 40 per cent more emergency food this year than last because bad weather has reduced farm output, doubling the prices of scarce staple foods, three United Nations agencies and the Government of the central African nation said today.

"The country would face a total food deficit in 2005 of 310,000 metric tons of food (in cereal equivalent) compared to 259,000 tons last year, primarily because of unfavourable weather conditions since 2003, affecting maize and bean yields," according to a joint assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Burundi.

The harvest of traditional roots and tubers - yam, manioc and sweet potatoes – was also smaller, their joint report said.

"After so many years of war, living conditions for most Burundians are very harsh and this drought is creating additional pressure on an already deeply impoverished people," said WFP's Zlatan Milisic.

Food shortages are particularly acute in Burundi's "food basket," the provinces in the north, northeast and central parts of the country, the report said.

In these provinces, families have already resorted to selling their livestock and other assets, including the roofs of their houses, as well as migrating in search of casual labour, or seeking alternative sources of food, it said.

Food insecurity has been worsening ever since the war broke out in 1993, damaging or destroying infrastructure, preventing the free movement of people and devastating the economy. According to WFP's food security survey last September, 16 per cent of Burundi's 7.6 million people have been chronically short of food, while 68 per cent have been living on the brink of chronic food shortages.

"To mitigate the impact of the gradual disappearance of cassava, the main inter-season crop, in certain provinces, FAO has embarked on a B-carotene-rich sweet potato cutting and healthy cassava material rapid propagation programme for 120,000 households," said FAO's Mustafa S. Cassama.

FAO also intended to run a propagation programme for a modified stem crop, taro, using indexed in vitro plant materials, he said.

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