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Concern Over Food Situation In Southern Africa

UN Reports Serious Concern Over Food Situation In Southern Africa

Nearly 12 million people in southern Africa, mainly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, are still in need of emergency food assistance despite a record maize harvest in South Africa, according to the new Africa report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today.

South Africa has harvested a bumper maize crop of 12.4 million tonnes with a potential export surplus of about 4.66 million tonnes, more than enough to cover the sub-region’s import requirements.

In Zimbabwe, there are shortages of seeds, fertilizer and draft power and access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain and high inflation, with fuel and transport problems exacerbating the situation. Some 3 million people will receive monthly rations of cereals and pulses from the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

In Malawi, food insecurity is worsening as maize prices continue to rise. So far, commercial imports and food aid deliveries have been meagre in spite of the significant amounts pledged by international donors.

In eastern Africa, the 2005 harvest is generally better than last year and food availability is expected to improve in most countries, but the overall situation remains precarious with high malnutrition rates in several countries due to the effects of war, displacement and past droughts.

In Somalia, the situation continues to be of concern, with more than 900,000 people in need of urgent aid. It is further aggravated by upsurges in hostilities in southern areas and deteriorating security is hampering the distribution of relief assistance.

The situation in Sudan is also alarming due to continued conflict and population displacement that have resulted in serious food insecurity, especially in Darfur and Southern Sudan.

In Eritrea, despite a higher crop production, some 1.4 million people are in need of assistance, while in Ethiopia, crop prospects are favourable in the main producing regions. But household food availability is poor and high malnutrition rates, particularly for children, are of serious concern in some areas. The number of people in need of emergency food assistance is estimated at 3.8 million.

Good harvests are expected in the Sahel region border the Sahara after generally favourable weather conditions throughout the growing season, but the severe food crisis of 2004/05 had serious income, livelihoods and nutrition effects and led to depletion of assets including loss of animals and high levels of indebtedness, notably in Niger, parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. In Côte d’Ivoire, insecurity and the de facto partition of the country continue to disrupt agricultural production and marketing activities.

In Central Africa, crop prospects are unfavourable in several countries due mainly to civil strife and insecurity. Burundi has warned that a serious food crisis is looming in the northern and eastern provinces due to the unfavourable prospects for the 2006 first harvest.

Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005/06 are expected to remain high, the report said. Total food aid requirement in 2004/05 is estimated at about 3.3 million tonnes, similar to 2003/04.

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