Sierra Leone will experience serious food shortages by mid-1999 unless peace returns, World Food Programme Executive Director Catherine Bertini said in Freetown on Saturday. In a report today, the country’s Ministry of Information quoted Bertini as saying this year’s harvest was likely to be good but “there could be problems” by the next.
Reuters reported that before the May 1997 coup that ousted President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the government had predicted the attainment of self-sufficiency in rice by 2001. But the rebels have been mutilating the rural population, hacking off people’s arms and legs and sending survivors fleeing to towns, making farming difficult.
Bertini said rebel attacks in the north and east of the country last week had increased tension in the capital, Freetown, and that a camp for some 12,000 IDPs in Waterloo, about 25 km south of Freetown, was empty. Although Freetown was bustling with activity, she added, there as “underlying tension”.
Bertini said her visit was, in part, to raise morale among WFP employees, particularly local staff, whose security situation was worrying, the ministry said. It said she also visited the towns of Bo, Gerihun and Blama and WFP officials said they saw no signs of fighting during the trip.
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