Some 16 million people in East and the Horn of Africa face will face food shortages this year, requiring emergency food and non-food assistance, the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS Net) reported on Monday. Another 7 million to 8 million were at risk of facing food shortages, it added.
According to FEWS Net, overall food insecurity in some countries in the region has continued to deteriorate mainly because of increasing chronic vulnerability, compounded by conflict and inadequate rainfall.
"As many as 16 million people require emergency food and non-food aid during 2004. Different forms of livelihood support may be needed for another 7 million to 8 million people who are moderately food insecure and coping, but whose food security conditions could deteriorate in the coming months," the report said.
It noted, however, that there had been an improvement in some areas due to good rainfall, including northern and southern Uganda. The possible realisation of peace in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan could also eventually allow people to resettle and produce their own food, it added.
In Sudan, FEWS Net said, recent displacement of people due to conflict had created 2.1 million vulnerable people, mostly in the south, while in Uganda 2 million were in equally dire need due to insecurity in the north.
Eritrea, on the other hand, had 1.9 million people affected by drought and war, while Ethiopia had 7.1 million drought-affected people. In neighbouring Somalia, 89,000 people were in need of emergency food aid and another 113,000 needed various forms of support.
According to the report, Kenya had some 184,000 people in need of food aid and supplementary feeding and another 900,000 in need of other types of assistance. "Some of these people are highly food insecure, needing food aid," it said.
Among the pastoralist groups in the region, the report noted, pasture and water for livestock were inadequate. The western half of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia were areas under "watch", while southern and northern Kenya were in a situation of critical "alert".
On Sudan, it said: "Intensified fighting since 2003 alone has displaced over 750,000 people (13 percent of the population) within Sudan, some 110,000 fleeing to Chad, and inflicted different forms of sufferings to half of the 6 million people in the Greater Darfur Region."
"Due to unpredictable security conditions, most displaced people are scattered in all three states of the Greater Darfur and are thus not easily accessible," it said. "Various agencies operating in the area together with the WFP [World Food Programme]... estimate that nearly 1.2 million are IDPs [internally displaced persons] and conflict-affected resident populations requiring humanitarian assistance."
Referring to prospects for a Sudanese peace agreement, FEWS Net said over half a million IDPs and refugees could return to southern Sudan during the first 12 months after the signing of the agreement. "Consistent and adequate humanitarian assistance will continue to be needed... failing to provide needed humanitarian support could result in unprecedented crises caused by severe competition for available but scarce resources."
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