Millions More In Horn Of Africa Could Face Food Shortages This Year, FAO Says

Millions of additional people in the Horn of Africa could face food shortages this year because of poor harvests from a lack of rain, worsening conflicts and the El Nino climatic effect, the U.N. Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) said on Monday, Reuters reports. The agency indicated “that from Uganda to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia a drop in cereal production was likely to increase the nearly 20 million people already dependent on food assistance in one of the world’s poorest regions,” the news service writes (9/21).

FAO said that the potential of heavy rains caused by El Nino in the coming months might destroy crops, livestock, infrastructure and homes. “In Uganda, the production of the first season crops is forecast at below average levels, the country’s fourth successive poor harvest, the agency said. The maize crop in Kenya is estimated at 1.84 million tons, about 28 percent below normal levels,” the Associated Press reports. Forced migrations, resulting from water searches, have increased disease outbreaks and worsened conflicts in the area, according to FAO (9/21).

Several news outlets reported on related stories about food security, malnutrition and food aid:

  • Despite the invention of techniques to “stave off famine … more people are hungry today than ever and that total should exceed one billion people this year for the first time, according to the United Nations,” the New York Times writes in an article examining causes of world hunger. “The answers are complex and involve everything from American farm politics and African corruption to war, poverty, climate change and drought, which is now the single most common cause of food shortages on the planet.” Some advocates say that “the tools for success are within reach provided the financing and political will persist: those tools include seeds fine-tuned to local conditions, fertilizer and better roads and other infrastructure improvements” (Martin, 9/19).
  • The Mail & Guardian reports on the recent Food Agriculture Natural Resources and Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) regional dialogue in Mozambique, where delegates “agreed that if agricultural development is not placed at the core of Africa’s agenda, there will be no development on the continent.” The dialogue, which “brought together about 200 representatives ranging from government ministries, the private sector, farmers and researchers from 28 countries around the world,” encouraged continued investment in agricultural subsidies and in smallholding farmers in Africa, the newspaper writes. Delegates also discussed subsidy programs and other issues related to agriculture (Fofanah/Kalideen, 9/21).
  • TIME examines the global economic recession’s effect on some of the world’s poorest people with a focus on the situation in Bangladesh and the World Food Programme’s (WFP) budget shortfall. “We’re looking at an unprecedented situation,” according to WFP spokesperson Gregory Barrow. “We’re having to make extremely difficult calculations that involve real people, real lives.” TIME writes: “The WFP rarely amasses the entire annual sum it requests, but this year’s shortfall has been particularly acute. Even when grappling with the onset of recession in 2008, the U.S. donated $2.1 billion. This year, it has given a bit more than a quarter of that sum” (Tharoor, 9/21). 
  • One in four children worldwide are underweight and 32 percent or 178 million are chronically malnourished, Dianne Stevens, a UNICEF nutrition specialist, said at a recent seminar organized by the College of Community Physicians, the Asian Tribune reports. Another 10 percent or 55 million children worldwide are acutely malnourished and 2 billion have vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc deficiencies, she said, adding that South Asia has the highest burden of malnutrition in children. Stevens said, “There is shift towards highly refined foods and towards meat and dairy foods containing saturated fat especially in low and middle income countries.” She discussed some of the reasons for the change in diets and also outlined effective interventions that could prevent malnutrition (Peiris, 9/21).

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