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Africa: UN agencies launch appeal for millions facing food shortages

Africa: UN agencies launch appeal for millions facing food shortages

With millions of people in Africa facing food shortages in the coming months, United Nations aid agencies today appealed for an infusion of donations to help avert a hunger crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) launched an urgent appeal for Burundi, which it said was on the verge of an “alarming” food shortage this month. A two-month delay in rains combined with a poor harvest from the previous growing season could cause the number of people needing relief food there to double to 1.2 million from 580,000.

WFP said it urgently needs 40,000 tons of food, valued at $19 million, to help feed more than a million Burundians until the main harvest in April 2003. The agency is also trying to cope with the current influx of Congolese refugees, which has reached about 14,000 people.

“The situation has become alarming, and the international community needs to step forward urgently to help avoid a possible hunger crisis,” said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Country Director and Representative in Burundi.

Meanwhile, WFP said it has started moving large amounts of food by rail from Nacala Port in Mozambique in a bid to speed up food aid to millions of hungry people in Malawi.

With all eight locomotives up and running, the UN agency said it would be transporting an extra 10,000 tons of food each month into the country. The Nacala railway project will also speed up the flow of commercial food and other crucial goods into Malawi, where nearly one third of the population is suffering from a combination of poor harvests, chronic poverty, failed policies and an overwhelming HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In Angola, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said malnutrition rates remain high and the number of people in need is growing with the food situation critical for a large number of displaced people.

While the number of Angolans in need of emergency food aid has increased to 1.9 million, from 1.42 million, an estimated 4.35 million people will be at risk next year, including more than 2 million who will be highly vulnerable, the UN agency said.

For 2003, FAO has launched a $12.7 million aid appeal to help the most vulnerable people resume their agricultural activities, and is planning to continue the distribution of urgently needed quality seeds and tools. “Good quality seeds were not available within the country, so we have identified skilled farmers in nine provinces and strengthened their ability to produce quality seed. We then buy a part of their production and distribute it to other needy farmers,” said Fernanda Guerrieri, Chief of FAO’s Emergency Operations Service.