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Hundreds of thousands face food insecurity

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Some 768,478 Rwandans are experiencing "significant food stress" due to poor rains, according to FEWS NET, a USAID-funded famine early warning system, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

A vulnerability assessment mission found the most chronically food insecure areas of the country to be Butare, Gikongoro, Kibuye, Gisenyi and Ruhengeri provinces, as well as the Bugesera ecozone, FEWS NET and WFP said in a food security update on 24 March.

The joint mission comprised food security partners from the WFP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), FEWS NET as well as NGOs World Vision and Caritas.

"In areas that had little or no harvest in December and January, household food stocks have been depleted or are near depletion," the assessment mission said. "This may imply an earlier start of the lean period and increased hardship conditions until the next harvest, expected in May-June."

The food insecure areas have experienced poor harvests since 2003 due to erratic and poorly distributed rainfall.

According to FEWS NET, the most common coping strategy is casual labour for those affected. The most vulnerable households are the destitute, elderly, chronically ill, child-headed households and the handicapped, who have limited access to casual labour opportunities.

The assessment mission recommended free distribution of food to the most vulnerable households. However, it said it was too late to mobilise resources for such a distribution, now that the seasonal rains were already well underway.

Instead, the team said, food-for-work activities should be increased in the most affected areas.

The team also said it hoped food would filter into these vulnerable households through traditional community support structures if the food-for-work activities were increased.

The mission reported that increased levels of migration had been reported, with households abandoning their homes, selling the iron sheets on their roofs and moving to areas with better food security situations.

Long-term measures in agriculture, livestock husbandry, marketing and easing of taxes on food imported from neighbouring countries, would also alleviate the food insecurity, the mission said.

It added that diversification of income-generating activities and more effective coordination by the government in early warning activities were needed to avoid food insecurity in future.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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