33 countries face 'exceptional food emergencies,' UN agriculture agency reports

33 countries face 'exceptional food emergencies,' UN agriculture agency reports

Thirty-three countries worldwide face "exceptional food emergencies" blamed largely on civil strife and drought, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.

Releasing its latest Foodcrops and Shortages report, the agency reported that emergencies currently plague 17 countries in Africa, 12 in Asia, 2 in Latin America and 2 in Europe. This is down from the 36 countries that FAO reported were facing food emergencies in the April edition of Foodcrops and Shortages. At that time, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe were facing emergencies, while Turkmenistan - now on the list - was not.

The report, which contains a region-by-region breakdown, notes that in eastern Africa, food supply prospects have improved with favourable rains over most of the region and good secondary season harvests in parts of it. However, difficulties caused by recent drought or civil strife persist. In Southern Africa, cereal production is sharply down from last year, mainly due to dry weather and reduced plantings. Agricultural activities continue to be hampered by civil strife in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

FAO reports that several Asian countries have been hit by adverse weather threatening their food security. In Afghanistan, the third consecutive year of drought has intensified the severe food crisis "pushing millions into destitution." The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is experiencing a serious drought following the coldest winter in decades, while Mongolia is recovering from two consecutive extremely harsh winters that killed millions of livestock. Parts of China, India and Pakistan are also experiencing drought.

In areas of the Commonwealth of Independent States some 4 million people need food assistance to survive, according to the report, which also notes that in Central America and the Caribbean, some 800,000 people affected by natural disasters are receiving international food assistance. Food assistance also continues to be necessary in the Balkans and in Chechnya, Russian Federation. Elsewhere, two earthquakes in June damaged property and infrastructure in Papua New Guinea, leaving many people homeless. In the Solomon Islands, the food situation remains tight, particularly for internally displaced persons and returnees.