AFRICA - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that drought and conflicts are worsening food security across Africa, especially in the east, amid strong global harvests.
According to the 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 conflicts.
"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 department.
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.
The 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.
Drought has led to a shortage of fodder for cattle and the third consecutive season of poor rainfall is estimated to have reduced crop production in southern and central regions to 70 per cent below average levels, leaving food stocks depleted.
According to the FAO, 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.
The 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 refugee-hosting countries.
According to the 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 per cent from 2016, with positive trends likely in most nearby countries.
TheCattleSite News Desk