November 10, 2009 / 2:44 PM / 9 years ago

Over 20 million people need food aid in east Africa: U.N

ROME (Reuters) - Drought and war in eastern Africa have left more than 20 million people in desperate need of emergency food aid, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

A worker tries to lift up a weak cow from among the carcasses of drought-stricken cows in a paddock at the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) factory near Athi River, 50km (31 miles) east of the capital Nairobi, September 16, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

“The situation is very worrying due to expected crop and pasture failures from poor rains in several areas, the increase in conflicts, trade disruptions and continuing high food prices,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

In its latest report on food and crop prospects (www.fao.org), FAO said delayed rains and dry spells often followed by floods had hurt crops and pastures in Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda.

In Somalia and Sudan, poor weather has worsened a food emergency due to civil wars, with 3.6 million and 5.9 million people in need of food aid, respectively. In the case of Somalia, that is about 50 percent of the total population.

The U.N. agency is hosting a world food summit in Rome next week, hoping to win broad support for an increase in agricultural investments in poor countries to help them feed themselves.

Maize production in Kenya, east Africa’s biggest economy, is expected to be 30 percent down on last year. About 3.8 million Kenyans, mainly living in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, are in need of emergency food assistance, FAO said.

That number rises to 6.2 million people in Ethiopia, where late and erratic rains have damaged maize and sorghum crops and reduced availability of pastures in many parts of the country.

A further 2.2 million people in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo also need food help.

Elsewhere in Africa, FAO said 2009 crop production was reduced in northern Nigeria, southern Niger, Mali and Chad, warning that could have a significant impact on regional markets and lead to new price increases.

In Niger, the hardest hit country in west Africa, “large segments of the population will be at risk of food shortages in 2010.”

In southern Africa, pockets of vulnerability persist despite good harvests earlier this year. In Zimbabwe, FAO estimates that 2.8 million people require about 228,000 tons of food aid for the year ending March 2010.

Editing by Anthony Barker

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