New UN report predicts 28 million Africans will face severe food shortages

New UN report predicts 28 million Africans will face severe food shortages

Some 28 million people in Africa will face severe food shortages this year -- many in countries that have been torn by conflict and ravaged by adverse weather conditions, according to a new report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, released today by FAO at its Rome headquarters, says that 16 African countries are facing exceptional food emergencies: Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The report projects sharp declines in food production in southern Africa, mainly due to adverse weather. At the same time, civil strife continues to disrupt food production in Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

The Sudan is an example of a country suffering serious food shortages due to both drought and conflict, with the country's long-running civil war impeding farming activities and the distribution of relief assistance.

In eastern Africa, the report points to a precarious food supply situation for more than 1.8 million people in Eritrea, while in neighbouring Ethiopia, some 6.5 million people affected by successive droughts and war depend on food aid.

In southern Africa, the report forecasts a sharp fall in cereal production for 2001, mainly because of a prolonged mid-season dry spell and subsequent excessive rains that damaged food crops in most countries.

Overall, sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements are projected to remain high in 2001. The report blames this trend on the effects of drought last year in eastern Africa, reduced harvests in parts of the Sahel, and an expected sharp drop in production in southern Africa.

The report reveals some improvement in Somalia, which has seen decent harvests this year, but warns that about half a million Somalis will still require food aid to survive -- down from three quarters of a million last year.