A number of regions in Africa are experiencing food shortages with various levels of severity and complexity. In East Africa approximately nine million people are in need of aid, some four million people in Niger are experiencing severe food shortages, another three million face hunger in neighbouring countries in west Africa while in southern Africa some nine million people are also affected with food shortages, primarily in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
This year's failed harvest and locust invasion has left Niger's population extremely vulnerable, especially an estimated 800,000 children under the age of five. Tensions are further exasperated between farmers and herdsmen as they struggle to search for pasture and water for their herds, as it becomes more and more scarce.
Trócaire is working with its local partners providing 150,000 people with immediate food relief consisting of rice beans and oil to feed their families while feeding centres provide high nutrition food for severely malnourished children and their mothers.
Malawi - over a third of the population requiring food assistance
The food situation in Malawi is equally severe. Estimates suggest that a total of 4.2 million people, 34 percent of the population, will require food assistance in the coming months. Malawi's lack of crop diversity, the high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, lingering effects of the 2003 food crisis all increase the vulnerability to drought.
Trócaire is currently supporting a programme benefiting 75,000 people, focused on agricultural recovery, implemented after the 2003 drought. This includes seed distribution, crop diversification, agricultural training, installation of irrigation systems and disaster risk management.
Zimbabwe- food shortages for 4 million
At present some 4 million people in Zimbabwe are in need of food aid. Drought at the beginning of the year caused significant damage to crops, HIV/AIDS has a prevalence rate of 33 percent nationally, causing serious labour shortages, and the Government halted food operations in 2004 and assumed responsibility for food relief themselves -- following the elections, food distributions stopped altogether. Combined with this, inflation was over 600 percent in 2004 reducing purchasing power considerably and preventing the importation of various commodities.
Over the past few years, Trócaire has provided emergency food relief to the most vulnerable communities throughout Zimbabwe while also funding much needed agricultural recovery projects.
East Africa - nine million need food aid
In East Africa -Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea - it is estimated that some nine million people will require food aid for the remainder of the year. Prolonged and successive droughts have resulted in poor harvests, depleted household food reserves and caused significant livestock deaths.
Head of Trócaire's International Department, Mike Williams said: "Niger is one country of many on the African continent facing crisis. We are launching an Africa-wide appeal to support Trócaire's core work in Africa that focuses on tackling problems at the root and reducing people's vulnerability to drought. Through our agricultural, land and food production and HIV/AIDS programmes we work to ensure long-term solutions to problems of food security.
He concluded: " We have already allocated an initial €100,000 to our local partner in Niger, who is providing immediate emergency food aid and have already distributed seeds in advance of the next planting season. As the situation in Niger deteriorates we will continue to scale up our response there. Other parts of Africa also need assistance. We need an additional €3 million for these essential programmes.