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Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa No. 2: Millions on the brink of starvation in Southern Africa

Attachments

PR 02/91
JOHANNESBURG/ROME, 26 August 2002 - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urged donor countries to commit critically needed food aid and financial support to Southern Africa to avert a large scale humanitarian crisis. The call came in a report released today, which says that the number of people in need of emergency food aid in Southern Africa is close to 13 million.

The report, released on the opening day of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, warned that only 24 percent of the US$507.3 million needed to provide food assistance to more than 10 million people until the next main harvest in April 2003 has been pledged. Assistance is also urgently needed to provide agricultural inputs to help farmers recover from the crisis. Against FAO's estimated requirements of US$25 million in mid-August pledges covered only 26 percent of the amount needed.

FAO's tri-annual Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, lists 21 countries* in the region as facing "food emergencies," up from 19 in April this year. The causes include civil strife, drought, excessive rain, flooding and population displacement.

"The food situation in southern Africa is of grave concern," the report says. "A prolonged dry spell during the 2001/02 growing season, and excessive precipitation in parts, devastated crops in large growing areas. In Zimbabwe, reduced planting in the large-scale commercial sector due to land reform activities compounded the problem. Maize production in the sub-region fell sharply, reaching less than one-quarter of last year's level in Zimbabwe, one-third in Lesotho and just over a half in Malawi, Zambia and Swaziland."

In Zimbabwe, the report warns that the "food and nutritional situation gives cause for serious concern following two consecutive sharply reduced cereal harvests and the country's prevailing economic crisis." The report says there are shortages of the main staple, maize, particularly in rural areas. Overall, high levels of inflation continue to erode access of poor households to food and non-food items. The outlook for the crop and livestock production 2002/03 is said to be "bleak due to disruption of farming activities in the large-scale commercial sector."

More than half the country's population is reported in need of food aid and FAO calls for "additional donor contributions" to stem the deterioration of the food situation. Assistance with agricultural inputs is also "urgently required to enable drought-affected farming families to restart agricultural production during the next main planting season starting October 2002."

Malawi has also been hard hit by the food crisis with instances of starvation reported in parts of the country earlier this year. The report estimates that some 3.2 million people have been seriously hurt by the combined effects of reduced food availability and food access. Distribution of relief food has begun to about 500,000 people. That number will rise to 3.2 million by December. So far, the report says, food aid requirements have been well resourced by donor contributions.

In Zambia, the report says, "Severe crop losses during the last cropping season due to drought have left some 2.3 million people, or about one-quarter of the population, in need of food assistance. In the worst affected Southern Province 60 percent of the population require relief food assistance.

A cease-fire agreement in Angola has revealed the extent of suffering by people trapped in rural areas of the country. Large numbers of severely malnourished people have since made their way to reception and transit centres and up to half a million people are reported in critical nutritional condition. More malnourished people will likely be found as the security situation in the country improves and more areas become accessible, the report cautions.

At the national level, Mozambique had a good cereal harvest, but the food situation in the southern region and parts of central regions is extremely tight, because crops were devastated by drought. Cereal production in these areas declined by one-third from last year's already reduced level. The report estimates that 515,000 people in 43 districts of the Southern and Central regions are facing severe food shortages and need emergency food aid.

In Namibia, the food supply situation is said to be "tight" following a sharp decline in this year's cereal production. The country faces a cereal deficit of about 156,000 tonnes in 2002/03. A recent vulnerability assessment by the government found that 500,000 people will need food aid as a result of the reduced harvest.

Elsewhere in southern Africa, the food supply situation is difficult in Lesotho and Swaziland where some 585,000 people are in need of food assistance. The report says that emergency assistance with agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer is also required to help disaster-affected farming families to restart agricultural production.

In parts of Eastern Africa the outlook for the 2002 crops in most countries of the sub-region is unfavourable, due to late onset of the rainy season and extended dry spells. The report says that serious food shortages have started to emerge in several areas, particularly in Eritrea, parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.

The food situation is said to be generally improved in the Great Lakes region, but difficulties persist in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Western Africa, crop prospects have deteriorated in some parts due to extended dry weather over most parts of the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal.

The report forecasts that sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements are expected to remain high, reflecting the sharp falls in cereal production in southern Africa. Reduced production in eastern Africa and increased population displacements in other parts of the continent due to conflict can also be expected to drive up import requirements. FAO estimates the total food aid requirement for the region at 1.81 tonnes for the current marketing year. Food aid pledges for 2001/02, including those carried over from 2000/01, amount to 1.22 million tonnes of which 1.06 million tonnes have been delivered.

*The 21 countries facing food emergencies are: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

While FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service monitors the food and crop situation throughout the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, the Organization's Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division provides assistance to people affected by natural and man-made disasters. The Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division is at work in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes and Central Africa, Somalia and Sudan. The Division provides assistance to the livestock and agriculture sectors to get food production up and working as soon as possible following a disaster. Its aim is to ensure that the population can feed itself again as quickly as possible.

For more information please contact, Media Relations Office, tel: (39) 06 5705 3625; e-mail: Media-Office.fao.org

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FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION AND CROP PROSPECTS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

No. 2, August 2002

Countries facing food emergencies: Angola, Burundi, Congo Dem. Rep. of, Congo Rep. of, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

INTRODUCTION

This is the second of three issues per year of this report prepared by the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) on the food supply situation and cereal import and food aid requirements for all countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The report is designed to provide the latest analysis and information on the food situation in these countries to governments, international organizations and other institutions engaged in humanitarian operations.

Part I focuses on the food crisis in southern Africa, particularly in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as in Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and southern provinces of Mozambique, due to two consecutive years of poor cereal harvests. It highlights the bleak crop prospects in several countries of eastern Africa and western parts of the Sahel due to extended periods of dry weather that have affected crops and livestock and raised serious concerns over the food outlook in 2002/03. The report also draws attention to the precarious food situation in parts of the Great Lakes region, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to civil strife, and the continuing need for food assistance in Angola, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to population displacements, refugees and insecurity.

Part II contains an assessment of crop prospects and the food supply situation by sub-region, giving the latest estimates of cereal import and food aid requirements of all four sub-regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Part III presents the latest analysis and information on crop prospects and the food supply situation and outlook in each country. The information on food aid pledges, triangular transactions and local purchases, and on expected arrivals, is based on data transmitted to GIEWS as of late July 2002 by the following donors: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, EC, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States as well as the World Food Programme.

COUNTRIES FACING FOOD EMERGENCIES (Total: 21 countries)

Country and Reasons for emergency

Angola: Civil strife, internally displaced people (IDPs)
Burundi: Civil strife and insecurity
Congo, Dem. Rep. of: Civil strife, IDPs and refugees
Congo, Rep. of: Civil Strife
Eritrea: IDPs, returnees and drought
Ethiopia: Drought, IDPs
Guinea: IDPs and refugees
Kenya: Drought in parts
Lesotho: Drought in parts
Liberia: Civil strife, IDPs
Malawi:Drought in parts
Mauritania: Irrigation water shortages
Mozambique: Drought in parts
Sierra Leone: Civil strife, IDPs
Somalia: Drought, civil strife
Sudan: Civil strife in the south, drought
Swaziland: Drought in parts
Tanzania: Poor rains in parts, refugees
Uganda: Civil strife in parts, IDPs
Zambia: Drought and floods in parts
Zimbabwe: Drought, farming disruptions

Since conditions can change rapidly, and published information may not always represent the most up-to-date basis for action, enquiries or corrections should be directed to Office of the Chief, Global Information and Early Warning Service (ESCG), FAO, Rome (Fax: 39-06-5705-4495, E-mail: GIEWS1@FAO.ORG).

Please note that this report is available on the Internet as part of the FAO World Wide Web (www.fao.org) at the following address: http://www.fao.org/giews/

HIGHLIGHTS

In Southern Africa, nearly 13 million people are in need of emergency food aid in marketing year 2002/03 (April/March) in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland, following two consecutive poor cereal harvests. A prolonged dry spell during the 2001/02 growing season, and excessive precipitation in parts, devastated crops in large growing areas. In Zimbabwe, reduced plantings in the large-scale commercial sector due to land reform activities compounded the problem. Maize production in the sub-region fell sharply, reaching less than one-quarter of last year's level in Zimbabwe, one-third in Lesotho and just over a half in Malawi, Zambia and Swaziland. Maize supplies were further reduced by the depletion of Government and farmers' stocks following the 2001 reduced cereal crops. Late and insufficient imports in the last marketing season resulted in severe food shortages and unprecedented increases in prices. Coping mechanisms of the vulnerable populations in the sub-region have virtually been exhausted. A regional emergency operation valued at US$507.3 million was jointly approved by FAO and WFP in late June to provide food assistance to about 10.3 million people or 80 percent of the affected population until the next main harvest from April 2003. However, by early August, only 24 percent of this amount had been pledged. Donors are urged to commit critically needed food aid and financial support to Southern Africa to avert a large scale humanitarian crisis. Assistance is also urgently required with agricultural inputs. Against FAO's estimated requirements of US$25 million for Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, pledges by mid-August covered only 26 percent. More contributions are, therefore, needed before the next main planting season starting in October.

In eastern Africa, the food outlook is bleak in several countries due to poor seasonal rains. In Eritrea, crop prospects are grim with the short (azmera) rains from March to May having failed totally. The drought has also continued into the important planting months of June and July, raising serious concerns over the country's prospective food security. Over one million people are currently estimated to be in need of assistance. Similarly in Ethiopia, severe drought conditions have caused the death of large numbers of livestock, mainly in the eastern and north-eastern pastoral areas. The number of people in need of assistance is now estimated at more than 8 million. In Kenya, poor rains in parts and an early end to the main season rains elsewhere have reversed earlier optimistic crop prospects and raised serious concerns over the food supply outlook. Despite improved pastures in some pastoral areas, food insecurity persists in several districts. Nearly 1.3 million people are estimated to be dependent on food assistance. In Somalia, despite a favourable forecast for the main (gu) season crops, serious malnutrition rates are reported in several parts, reflecting diminished livelihoods due to successive droughts and long-term effects of years of insecurity. The recent escalation of conflict, particularly around Baidoa, northeastern Somalia (Puntland) and in Mogadishu, has displaced a large number of people and disrupted delivery of food assistance to vulnerable groups. In Tanzania and Uganda, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory. However, the escalation of conflict in northern Uganda has displaced large numbers of people, adding to the more than 1.5 million IDPs, refugees and other vulnerable people that already depend on food assistance.

In the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation has improved in Rwanda and Burundi following good harvests of the 2002 second season crops. By contrast, the food and nutritional situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo gives cause for serious concern. Persistent civil strife continues to cause massive population displacements, with the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently estimated at 2 million. Their food situation is extremely serious, as distribution of relief assistance is hampered by insecurity. The food supply situation in Kinshasa is also serious, as food availability falls far short of needs.

In western Africa, dry weather conditions have seriously affected crops in parts, particularly in The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. In Cape Verde, prospects for the maize crop, normally planted from July, are unfavourable due to delayed onset of rains. By contrast, crop growing conditions have improved in central and eastern parts of the Sahel with increased and better distributed rainfall in most agricultural regions of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. Agricultural activities in Liberia have been disrupted by renewed civil strife, pointing to reduced rice production this year. Sierra Leone and Guinea remain heavily dependent on international food assistance due to large numbers of IDPs and refugees.

Sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements are expected to increase in 2002/03, reflecting large production shortfalls in southern Africa and anticipated reduced harvests in eastern Africa.

PART I: OVERVIEW

The food outlook for sub-Saharan Africa in 2002/03 gives cause for serious concern. In southern Africa, sharp declines in maize harvests for two consecutive years have put a large number of people at the brink of starvation, while in eastern and western Africa the food outlook is unfavourable due to poor and erratic rainfall. Consequently, sub-Saharan Africa's cereal import requirements in 2002/03 are expected to be above average. However, given the reduced import capacity of these countries due to falling international prices for their exports, increased international food assistance will be necessary to avert extreme hardship.

THE FOOD SITUATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA IS OF GRAVE CONCERN

Following two consecutive years of poor cereal harvests, nearly 13 million people in southern Africa are in need of emergency food assistance until the next harvest in April 2003.

In Zimbabwe, the food and nutritional situation gives cause for serious concern following two consecutive sharply reduced cereal harvests and the country's prevailing economic crisis. Shortages of the main staple, maize, are reported, particularly in rural areas. A recent assessment by the Government and UNICEF indicated an overall deterioration of the nutritional status of children, mostly in rural areas. The study showed that in 19 out of 24 districts surveyed, the prevalence of severe malnutrition was over 10 percent. In urban areas, recent shortages of bread, which had been used as an alternative to scarce maize-meal, has aggravated the food situation and accelerated price increases in the parallel market. Overall, high levels of inflation continue to erode access of poor households to food and non-food items. Further, the outlook for the crop and livestock production in 2002/03 is bleak due to disruption of farming activities in the large-scale commercial sector.

An FAO/WFP Mission in May estimated the maize deficit at 1.7 million tonnes, including 705 000 tonnes of emergency food aid for some 6 million most vulnerable people, or almost half of the country's population.

The Government, which has a monopoly for grain trade, has started arrangements to import maize commercially but so far arrivals have been slow, totalling less than 200 000 tonnes since the beginning of the marketing year in May. Pledges of food aid also remain well below requirements. Additional donor contributions are urgently needed to stem the deterioration of the food situation. Assistance with agricultural inputs is also urgently required to enable drought-affected farming families to restart agricultural production during the next main planting season starting in October 2002.

In Malawi, the food supply situation remains serious following two consecutive years of reduced cereal harvests. Earlier in the year, severe food shortages resulted in starvation in parts of the country.

Approximately 3.2 million people are estimated to be seriously affected by the combined effects of reduced food availability and food access. Emergency food aid needs are estimated at 208 000 tonnes of cereals, mainly maize. Distribution of relief food has already started, targeting 500 000 beneficiaries with the number to be increased to 3.2 million people by December. Food aid requirements are so far well resource by donors' contributions.

Prices of maize, the staple crop, have declined from their record levels in March but are still above their levels of a year ago reflecting reduced supply. Of the estimated maize deficit of 575 000 tonnes, the Government has already approved importation of 250 000 tonnes through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). These imports will augment the available supply of maize and minimize price hikes.

Substantial informal cross-border maize inflows from Tanzania and Mozambique have also helped stabilize prices. The Government has announced the resumption of the "starter-pack" agricultural inputs programme for the next cropping season, targeting 3 million farmers at a cost of US$14.9 million, of which the Government will provide US$1.5 million and the balance is expected from donors.

In Zambia, severe crop losses during the last cropping season due to drought have left some 2.3 million people, or about one-quarter of the population, in need of food assistance. In the worst affected Southern Province 60 percent of the population require relief food assistance. This is the second consecutive year of reduced cereal harvests and coping mechanisms of the population are stretched to the limit. Aggregate, output of the main staple maize has been estimated at 25 percent below last year's reduced crop.

The maize deficit in marketing year 2002/03 (May/April) is estimated at 575 000 tonnes. The Government and private millers signed an agreement in July to import 350 000 tonnes of maize duty-free. This is expected to prevent a repeat of last year's delays in imports that resulted in serious maize shortages. Food aid requirements for the most affected population are estimated at 174 000 tonnes. Food distributions are underway in 39 of the country's 72 districts. Current pledges of cereal food aid are adequate for the current operations but additional pledges of pulses and vegetable oil are still needed, as well as financial contributions for agricultural inputs for the next planting from October.

In Angola, the cease-fire agreement signed in April 2002 between UNITA and the Angolan Government revealed the extent of suffering by people trapped in rural areas. Large numbers of severely malnourished people have since made their way to reception and transit centres and up to 500 000 are reported to be in a critical nutritional condition. Severe malnutrition rates have been found particularly in Bié, Uige, Huambo and Huila provinces, but as the security situation improves and more areas become accessible, similarly affected people are expected to be reached by the humanitarian community.

The total number of people in urgent need of food assistance in marketing year 2002/03 (April/March) is estimated at 1.4 million. This includes households in areas worst affected by the military conflict, the families of demobilised UNITA soldiers living in camps in several areas, IDPs with limited or no access to land to produce food, large numbers of vulnerable people and refugees returning from neighbouring countries. An FAO/WFP Mission in June 2002 estimated food aid needs at 221 000 tonnes of cereals, but by the end of July pledges fell far short of requirements. More contributions from donors are, therefore, urgently needed to avoid an interruption in the delivery of the assistance. International assistance is also required for repair of key roads and bridges before the rainy season starts in mid-September. The country will also need substantial assistance for an extensive de-mining programme.

In Mozambique, despite the good cereal harvest at the national level, the food situation is extremely tight in the southern and parts of the central regions, where crops were devastated by drought. On average, cereal output in the affected provinces declined by one-third from the reduced level of the previous year. The populations in these areas have exhausted their coping mechanisms due to the cumulative effects of several recent natural disasters - especially floods/excessive rains and cyclones - that hit the same areas during the last three years. For most households, alternative sources of income such as employment in South Africa and selling of charcoal are limited and dwindling.

It is estimated that 515 000 people in 43 districts of the Southern and Central regions are facing severe food shortages and need emergency food aid. This represents less than 3 percent of the country's total population but about 15 percent of the population of the two regions. Most of the food aid requirement, estimated at about 70 000 tonnes of cereals, is to be covered mainly by imports as high transport costs within the country make the movement of maize from the surplus north to the deficit south prohibitively expensive. WFP is distributing food through food-for-work programmes in 36 districts and through general distributions in two worst affected districts. Additional donor pledges are urgently required to avoid a break in the cereal pipeline in the next few months.

In Namibia, the food supply situation is tight following a sharp decline in this year's cereal production. The country faces a cereal deficit of about 156 000 tonnes in 2002/03 (May/April), most of which is expected to be imported commercially. A recent vulnerability assessment undertaken by the Government found that 500 000 people are food insecure as a result of the reduced harvest and need emergency food aid. The Government has appealed for international assistance.

Elsewhere in southern Africa, the food supply situation is tight in Lesotho and Swaziland where, respectively, about 445 000 and 140 000 people are in need of food assistance. WFP has started food distributions in both countries. Emergency assistance with agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer is also required to enable disaster-affected farming families to restart agricultural production in the next planting season starting in October.

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