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Serious Food Shortages in East Africa, FAO Says

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ROME (Reuters) - Serious food supply difficulties are emerging in parts of east Africa, mainly due to unfavorable weather, civil conflicts and pests, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report released Wednesday.
''As 1999 draws to a close, food supply difficulties have emerged in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in eastern Africa, due to adverse weather, intensified civil strife and pest outbreaks,'' the Rome-based FAO said.

It said a major food crisis had emerged in southern Somalia, as a result of an upsurge in the long-running civil conflict which has exacerbated the impact of a recent severe drought that led to a poor harvest, the seventh in a row.

''With relief operations severely impeded, nearly 1.6 million people are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies, and a number of starvation-related deaths have been reported,'' said the report entitled ''Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa.''

Elsewhere in eastern Africa, dry spells and erratic rains have sharply reduced cereal production in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, resulting in large numbers of people needing food assistance, the report added.

''In Eritrea, the food situation has deteriorated for more than half a million people displaced by the war with Ethiopia,'' the FAO said.

In Sudan, despite favorable harvest prospects, more than two million people in the south continue to rely on emergency food assistance due to civil war, it added.

Food Situation Precarious In Great Lakes

In Burundi, food supply difficulties have intensified due to a recent increase in violence in some parts, resulting in renewed displacement of people and forcing the suspension of international humanitarian assistance, the FAO said.

''The food and health situation of around 821,000 people in camps is of serious concern,'' it said.

''Living conditions in these camps are reported to be extremely poor, with no clean water and sanitary facilities.''

The overall crop prospects are also unfavorable, due to dry weather and reduced planting, the FAO said.

''A reduced harvest this season will follow a below-normal harvest last season, and it is expected, therefore, that the already tight food situation will deteriorate in the coming months,'' the report said.

Elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation remains critical in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an estimated 10 million people are short of food due to civil unrest, the FAO said.

''Floods in Kinshasa in early December have compounded the food problem,'' it said.

In Rwanda, despite an overall increase in food production last season, severe food shortages are reported in several areas, with an estimated 900,000 returnees in need of urgent food assistance, the FAO said.

In southern Africa, the already precarious food situation in Angola has worsened, following an escalation of the civil war.

''In central and northern parts (of Angola), severe food supply difficulties and malnutrition are reported among the displaced population in several areas, including Matalala, Kuito, Huambo and Malange,'' the report said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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