Rome - Some 23 countries* in sub-Saharan Africa will need food assistance in the coming months, according to the Africa Report, which FAO released today. The causes range from civil strife and war to adverse weather and economic disruption.
The Africa Report is a regional and country-by-country breakdown of crop prospects and food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa, including expected food aid requirements.
In eastern Africa, the report warns that the food situation in Sudan remains "very alarming" in several areas, including Darfur and parts of the south, which have been suffering from conflict, population displacement and drought. Serious food shortages are now reported in several parts of the country. Increased numbers of people are on the move including returnees to Southern Sudan and more than 2 million displaced people in Darfur.
More food aid needed
Eritrea remains food insecure due mainly to the impact of successive years of poor rains. According to the report additional food aid pledges and deliveries are urgently needed in view of the lean season, which begins in June.
"More food aid pledges are also needed in Ethiopia notwithstanding an improved harvest late last year, increased food aid deliveries, and the start of the productive safety net programme," according to the report.
In Southern Africa, prolonged dry spells or reduced precipitation in February undermined crop prospects in several countries, including Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. However, the report adds, "better crops prospects" are seen in much of Angola, northern Zambia, northern Malawi and northern Mozambique.
The first official forecast of maize output in South Africa, the subregion's largest producer, is estimated at 10.52 million tonnes, representing an improvement of about eight percent on last year and 11 percent over the previous five-year average. As a result, the report forecasts a substantial exportable surplus in South Africa, which will be available to the deficit countries in the sub-region..
HIV/AIDS contributes to state of emergency
According the report, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a contributing factor to food insecurity in several countries.
In Zimbabwe, the report says a serious two-week dry spell in February is expected to have serious adverse effects on crop yields. A shortage of top dressing fertilizer is anticipated to exacerbate the already low productivity. Farmers also faced shortages of fuel, spare parts and draught power. As a result, "overall prospects for the current season crops are unfavourable."
Some countries in western Africa's Sahel area are facing serious food insecurity because of high prices and shortages of millet in the areas that were affected by desert locusts and poor rainfall in 2004. According to the report, the most affected country is Mauritania, where the food situation remains critical with thousands of rural households in need of emergency food assistance. "Mauritania has faced several years of drought and poor harvests and the ability of a large number of people to cope with this situation has been exhausted."
Food assistance needed in three West African countries
In Côte d'Ivoire, the report says that insecurity, labor shortages and a growing separation of the northern and southern halves of the country continue to disrupt agricultural production and marketing. Food production has been satisfactory in the south, but remains below average in the north and west. Small farmers growing cash crops are suffering significant income losses and household food security has been hit by the disruption of livelihoods.
In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, food assistance will continue to be needed for internally displaced people and for refugees.
Central Africa's first season harvest is now complete. Production estimates in Burundi indicate a decline of about 5 percent in total food production leading to a food deficit of 310 000 tonnes in cereal equivalent. In neighboring Rwanda, preliminary estimates indicate that about 30 000 tonnes of food aid will be needed in 2005. The FAO report warns that renewed disturbances in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo are a cause for concern, especially the resettlement of internally displaced people and returnees who have just arrived.
FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System publishes the Africa Report three times annually.
* The 23 countries facing food emergencies are: Angola, Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.