by Chrispinus Omar
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Thursday that drought
and conflicts were worsening food security across Africa,
especially in its eastern part, amid strong global harvests.
According to FAO’s new edition of Crop Prospects and Food
Situation report, food supply conditions are robust, but access
to food has been dramatically reduced in areas suffering civil
"This is an unprecedented situation. Never before have we
been faced with four threats of famine in multiple countries
simultaneously," said FAO Assistant Director-General Kostas
Stamoulis, who heads the Economic and Social Development
According to the UN food agency, some 37 countries require
external assistance for food, including 28 African countries as
a result of lingering effects of last year’s El Nino-triggered
drought on harvests.
FAO said while agricultural production is expected to rebound
in southern Africa, protracted fighting and unrest are
increasing the ranks of the displaced and hungry in other parts
of the world.
Famine has been formally declared in South Sudan and the food
security situation is of grave concern in northern Nigeria,
Somalia and Yemen.
"It demands swift action which should consist of immediate
food assistance but also livelihood support to ensure that such
situations are not repeated," Stamoulis said.
In South Sudan, 100,000 people were facing famine in Leer and
Mayendit counties, part of former Unity State, while there was
an "elevated risk" that similar conditions existed in two nearby
Overall, about 4.9 million people across the country were
classified as facing crisis, emergency or famine.
That number is projected to increase to 5.5 million, or
almost half the country’s population, at the peak of the lean
season in July.
In Somalia, the combination of conflict, civil insecurity and
drought have resulted in more than double the number of people,
now estimated at 2.9 million, being severely food insecure from
six months ago.
Drought has curtailed fodder for pastoralists and the third
consecutive season of poor rainfall is estimated to have reduced
crop production in southern and central regions to 70 percent
below average levels, leaving food stocks depleted.
According to FAO, a total of 8.1 million people in northern
Nigeria are facing acute food insecurity and require urgent
life-saving response and livelihood protection.
That comes despite the above-average cereal harvest in 2016
and reflects the disruption caused by conflict as well as the
sharp depreciation of the Naira.
In Yemen, 17 million people or two-thirds of the population
are estimated to be food insecure, while almost half of them are
in need of emergency assistance, with the report noting that
"the risk of famine declaration in the country is very high."
FAO said conflicts and civil unrest in Afghanistan, Burundi,
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Iraq, Myanmar and Syria are also exacerbating food insecurity
for millions of people as well as affecting nearby
According to FAO, maize harvests in Southern Africa, slashed
by El Nino, are forecast to recover this year, with South
Africa’s output expected to increase by more than 50 percent
from 2016, with positive trends likely in most nearby countries.
However, an outbreak of armyworms, along with localized
flooding in Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, could limit larger
production gains in 2017.