Africa: Food Shortages, 01/16/01

Africa: Food Shortages, 01/16/01

Africa: Food Shortages Date distributed (ymd): 010116 Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +economy/development+ Summary Contents: This posting contains a December press release from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with the latest data on food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 28 million people face severe food shortages, some 20 million of them in eastern Africa, as a result both of drought and war. Other areas with severe shortages include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Sierra Leone.

On January 8 the UN's World Food Program released a new 'World Hunger Map' - available free with a request form at WPF website ( The data shown on the map indicates one-third of sub-Saharan Africa's population as undernourished, as compared with 17 percent in Asia, and 11 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Neither the FAO report nor the World Food Program report received more than perfunctory news coverage. Nor have the particular African crises most responsible for the numbers. This pattern, which extends beyond the particular issue of hunger, was the subject of an article in the New York Times ( week in review for January 14, 2001. Journalist Donald G. McNeil, Jr., now covering eastern Europe after four years in Africa, entitled his article 'The World Comforts the Forgotten (Some More Forgotten Than Others).' Several brief quotes from his article are included at the end of this posting.

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Food and Agriculture Organization (

Press Release 00/68


Rome, 21 December 2000 - Some 28 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are facing severe food shortages as serious food supply problems persist in a number of countries, mainly because of prolonged drought and civil strife, according to a report released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The situation is most critical in eastern Africa, where 20 million people face serious food shortages that will require continued food aid well into 2001.

The report, Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, says that the food situation in eastern Africa remains the most precarious in the region due to the lingering effects of drought and/or civil strife. It is particularly serious in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, where large cereal imports, mostly as food aid, are needed to stave off starvation. The report says that so far, timely and generous donor response has averted massive starvation, but it adds, the food crisis in the sub-region is far from over.

Rainfall for the current secondary cropping season has been reported in most of the drought-affected areas in Ethiopia and Somalia and, to a lesser extent, in the worst affected areas in Kenya. Current forecasts indicate further improvement in rainfall in Ethiopia and Somalia for October-December 2000. However, the report says, significant parts of Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania and Djibouti are forecast to receive lower than average rainfall until year-end.

The report says the food situation in Eritrea "gives cause for serious concern," with some 1.5 million people displaced by war and nearly 340,000 more affected by the drought. Despite favourable rains in September and October in some regions of the country, harvest prospects for main season cereal and pulse crops in 2000 are bleak, mostly because hundreds of thousands of farmers have been displaced by the war with neighbouring Ethiopia. The country's main grain producing areas, which normally supply more than 75 percent of Eritrea's cereal production, have been at the centre of the recent clashes and may have little or no harvest in 2000.

In contrast, the report says good rains in several areas of Ethiopia during September and October have helped maturing crops in important cereal producing areas of the country. But, cereal production in eastern and southern parts has been affected by continued drought conditions. The 2000 secondary "Belg" crop, harvested in June, had also failed due to drought.

According to the report: "The overall food supply situation remains highly precarious with an estimated 10.2 million people depending on food assistance."

In Kenya, FAO says prospects for the 2000/01 "short rains" cereal crops in some areas are uncertain despite some recent good rains. The main season harvest, which normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production, has largely failed due to a severe drought. As a result, the country will need to import an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of cereals in 2000/01 marketing year (October-September) to maintain normal consumption requirements. The report also says, "the severe scarcity of water and pasture has resulted in the loss of large numbers of livestock, mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the country," where "nearly 3.3 million people, mostly pastoralists, need emergency food assistance. With limited foreign exchange resources, the country needs substantial international assistance to cope with the emergency."

Somalia's recently harvest of main season ("Gu") crops is satisfactory, according to the report. The season's cereal production, estimated at 212,000 tonnes, is about 22 percent above the post-war (1993-1999) average. Improved rainfall and better security conditions have also encouraged some households to return to their farms. However, poor harvests are anticipated in some areas due to erratic and insufficient rains.

Despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation in parts of southern Somalia, FAO says that serious malnutrition rates are increasingly reported, reflecting diminished livelihoods due to a succession of droughts and longer-term effects of years of insecurity and lack of investment in the economy. Elsewhere, in north-western Somalia the food situation is precarious in some agro-pastoral areas. With traditional coping mechanisms virtually exhausted, migration of people and livestock to Ethiopia and other regions is reported.

In Sudan, the report says "erratic rains have severely affected the 2000 crop production." It adds: "Despite the anticipated good harvest in the irrigated sector, mainly due to an extensive rehabilitation, the rainfed sector, which accounts for the bulk of cereal production, has been seriously affected. Serious food shortages have already emerged in a number of districts, with food prices more than double the average prices for the time of the year."

Tanzania's 2000 cereal crop, mainly maize, is estimated at about 3.5 million tonnes, nearly 20 percent below the average over the previous five years. The decline is attributed to drought conditions in several parts of the country. As a result, the cereal import requirement is currently forecast at 690,000 tonnes. However, the report says, "the overall food supply situation has improved due to large maize imports which have led to marked declines in food prices. Despite reduced pasture, livestock conditions are reported to be satisfactory."

In Uganda, prospects for the 2000 second season food crops, to be harvested from next January, have improved with recent good rains. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory. However, the situation remains precarious in the north-east, mainly due to last season's poor harvest and loss of cattle due to raids. Overall, food assistance is required for an estimated 1.2 million people affected by adverse weather and civil unrest.

In the Great Lakes region, the FAO report describes the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo as "grim," with as many as 2 million internally displaced persons cut off from humanitarian agencies because of fighting and general insecurity throughout the country.

Rwanda had exceptional dry weather from mid-May to mid-October, particularly in southern and eastern parts, which the report says has resulted in severe yield reductions of main staples as well as other crops. Livestock losses due to poor conditions of pastures and scarcity of water sources have also been reported, mainly in the Umutara Prefecture, where losses of bovines are estimated at one-quarter of the total population. Severe food difficulties are being experienced in these areas with prices of basic food increasing sharply from September, while those of livestock have declined substantially reflecting distress selling. In the Umutara Prefecture, many people have migrated to neighbouring Tanzania or other prefectures. A recent local mission of the Government and international agencies, estimated that 267,000 people, or 22 percent of the population in the affected areas, are in need of food aid until end-January 2001. There is also need of support for agricultural rehabilitation to allow the affected population to restore their production capacity. The assistance should focus on the distribution of bean seeds and cassava cuttings, restocking of animals and distribution of veterinary drugs. The Government has appealed for international assistance for food aid and agricultural rehabilitation assistance.

In Burundi, the report says that the food supply is very tight following a succession of reduced harvests. The situation has been aggravated by over five months without precipitation, from late April to mid-October. Abundant rains in October provided relief to the drought situation but were late to avoid yield reductions of perennial crops and declines in the area planted to the 2001 first cereal and pulse crops, to be harvested from January. Serious seed shortages will also negatively affect plantings.

According to the report, Angola continues to suffer from fighting between Government and rebel forces, particularly in northern parts of the country, which has resulted in fresh waves of internally displaced people and refugees to neighbouring countries. The number of internally displaced, already estimated at 2.5 million at the end of June, is on the increase. The movement of population has coincided with the planting of the 2000/01 cereal crops and despite generally adequate rains since the beginning of the season in October, large numbers of farmers have abandoned their farms in search of safe-havens. As a result, production of foodcrops is likely to be reduced for the third consecutive year, aggravating the precarious food supply situation. The country will, therefore, continue to rely heavily on food assistance to meet its food needs.

Elsewhere in southern Africa, the report says Zimbabwe's overall food supply position is expected to remain satisfactory following a good 2000 maize harvest. However, continuous devaluation of the national currency, fuel and power shortages, high inflation and increasing unemployment are undermining access to food of large numbers of urban population. Sharp increases in the prices of basic foods in the past month, including bread, maize meal, sugar and cooking oil, particularly in Harare, have been reported.

Despite the severe floods in southern and central areas of Mozambique, FAO reports that a good 2000 cereal crop, mainly maize, was obtained. As a result, the food supply situation remains satisfactory. Prices remain stable and are below their level of a year earlier. In provinces affected by the floods, the food supply situation improved with a good harvest of the secondary season crop, the rehabilitation of roads, and food aid distributions. However, an estimated 172,000 food insecure people, including those most affected by the flood damage, would require food aid until the next harvest.

In South Africa, the report says heavy rains in late November in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province resulted in floods and the displacement of thousands of people. The flooding disrupted agricultural activities. However, according to the report, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting the 2000 bumper maize crop. Although early prospects for the 2001 maize are poor due to anticipated reduced plantings, large carryover stocks should guarantee adequate supplies in marketing year 2000/01 (May/April).

Elsewhere in southern Africa, the report says the overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting this year's bumper cereal harvest, in spite of severe floods in parts. Outputs increased substantially in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana, while in Malawi remained at the same record level of last year.

Other problem areas in Sub-Saharan Africa include Sierra Leone, where a reduced harvest is anticipated as planted areas are likely to be significantly below last year's level due to a resurgence of civil strife in early May, during the critical planting period. Due to insecurity, input distribution and relief operations were suspended or seriously disrupted, notably in the north. With the rainy season, the food supply situation deteriorated as many areas were inaccessible due to transport problems. In addition to the internally displaced persons already registered, more have been registered in the south and the west following the upsurge of fighting in May and more recently in October. About half a million persons had been displaced and are being hosted by local communities in government controlled areas, while it is estimated that 1 million persons have been affected by the war in rebel controlled areas. More than 400 000 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in neighbouring West African countries, mostly in Guinea and Liberia

The FAO report says that cereal import requirements in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 2000/01 are expected to increase mainly as a result of reduced harvests in some countries and increased food aid needs in eastern Africa

It says, "The food situation in eastern Africa remains precarious and needs continued assistance to avert further hardship and loss of life. Persistent civil war and insecurity in parts of the Great Lakes region continue to cause massive displacement of population, while widespread insecurity in Angola would further aggravate the already precarious food situation in the country. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following priority areas requiring action:

"First, continued and adequate food assistance is needed throughout 2001 for the affected populations in eastern Africa, particularly in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya.

"Second, the millions of internally displaced persons in countries affected by past or ongoing civil wars would require food assistance until their return and reintegration into their communities.

"Third, with current indications pointing to the emergence of food shortages in many parts of Sudan, contingency planning for timely food assistance to affected populations will be necessary.

"Fourth, further support for the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector will be needed in countries ravaged by adverse weather and/or civil strife."

* * * * *

The "FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION AND CROP PROSPECTS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA is available for collection at FAO Headquarters in Rome. For a copy please telephone 06 5705 3625.

For further Information:

John Riddle - (39) 06 57053259 or Media Relations Office at (39) 06 57 05 3625

E-mail -

The full report is available on the FAO Web site at:


The New York Times, January 14, 2001

The World Comforts the Forgotten (Some More Forgotten Than Others)


[quotes extracted from full article at

It was just as the car crested the hill above Kosovo's capital that I realized that the president of Zambia was right. ...

But what really jumped out of the landscape was something else - vast fields of snow white Toyota 4-by-4's. the third world, the United Nations icon is the white Toyota Land Cruiser with the spring-mounted radio mast.

Kosovo - which I saw within months of having spent four years in Africa - was clearly a higher order of aid recipient. In a province the size of Connecticut, there were literally thousands of white 4x4's with the logos of the United Nations, the Red Cross, Oxfam, Goal, Catholic Relief Services and so on.

What President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia charges is that the world - despite having an African as secretary general of the United Nations and despite poverty being concentrated on dark-skinned continents - runs its aid programs to soothe the white, Eurocentric nerves of the rich countries that pay for them.

His chief evidence is that the United Nations was spending $1.50 per refugee in the former Yugoslavia and 11 cents per refugee from the war in Congo, many of whom are inside his borders. ...

... when it comes to attracting attention, white-skinned suffering just seems to have more bite than brown-skinned suffering. ..

A few weeks ago I was researching an article about Romanian orphanages and blundered into a better story: Many of the thousands of children who were infected with the virus that causes AIDS during the Ceausescu regime are now dying because they cannot get anti-retroviral cocktails. ...

And I immediately had an unworthy thought: Oh boy. After years of covering AIDS in Africa, where millions of children haven't a prayer of getting the same drugs - not to mention the children dying of curable things like sleeping sickness or malaria - I finally get to write about white kids with AIDS. Now we'll see what happens.

And it did. Offers to help buy drugs for those poor white children have poured in. ...

I don't find anything to criticize in the kind hearts of such people who want to help the Europeans. Still, it leaves me sad.


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 11:00:29 -0500 Subject: Africa: Food Shortages

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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