UN: FAO says ongoing conflicts, droughts exacerbate food needs

New York, US (PANA) - A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said drought linked to El Nino and conflicts have pushed the number of countries currently in need of external food assistance up to 37 from 34 in March.

The report, entitled: "Crop Prospects and Food Situation", released on Thursday, listed the 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya and Lesotho.

Others are Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

It said that the new addition to the list of countries in need of food assistance to feed their own populations or communities of refugees are Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Nigeria.

In a statement on the report, made available to PANA in New York, FAO said that in Haiti, output of cereals and starchy roots in 2015 dropped to its lowest level in 12 years, and around 3.6 million people, more than one-third of the population, are food insecure, almost half of them "severely", while at least 200 000 are in an extreme food emergency situation.

It noted that Haiti's woes are largely due to El Nino, which has also exacerbated the worst drought in decades in Central America's dry corridor.

It said in Southern Africa, El Nino impacts have significantly worsened food security and the 2016 cereal harvest currently underway is expected to drop by 26 percent from the already reduced level of the previous year, triggering a "substantial rise" in maize prices and import requirements in the coming marketing year.

The statement said prolonged drought in Papua New Guinea last year has been followed by heavy rains and localized flooding in early 2016, affecting around 2.7 million people.

It also said that cereal output in the country's Highland region is expected to suffer a severe shortfall, while the harvest in neighboring Timor-Leste is expected to be reduced for the second year in a row.

"While El Nino is now over, the World Meteorological Organization forecasts a 65 percent chance it will be followed by a La Nina episode, which typically triggers the opposite precipitation patterns, potentially a boon for parched land but also posing the risk of flooding," it said.

The report also disclosed that civil conflicts and their displacement of populations have worsened the food security situation in 12 of the 28 countries on the watch list.

"About 13.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, with caseloads increasing. This year' s harvest is forecast to drop by around 9 percent, due to irregular rainfall in parts of the country, combined with a lack of agricultural inputs and damage to farm infrastructure," according to FAO.

The report stated that Nigeria, home to Africa's largest economy and population, was added to the list of countries needing external help, due to large-scale internal displacement of people stemming from ongoing conflict in north-eastern part of the country, which also led to increased number of refugees and food insecurity in neighboring Cameroun, Chad and Niger.

It noted that about 3.4 million people, mostly in the Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe, are estimated to be in need of food assistance.

"In Yemen, where over 14.4 million people are estimated to be food insecure, half of them severely, so there is a high risk that desert locust swarms will increase in hard-to-reach interior regions from early June onwards," it said.

Meanwhile, FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production in 2016 to 2,539 million tonnes, up 17.3 million tonnes from its previous May projection and up 0.6 percent from last year's harvest.

It said that aggregate cereal production in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) is also forecast to increase to 420 million tonnes in 2016, led by a recovery in rice and wheat production in India after last year reduction due to El Nino-related drought.  

It also noted that in spite of the improved world production prospects in 2016, output would still fall slightly short of the projected demand in 2016/17, meaning global stocks would need to be drawn down from their near-record level.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 2June2016

02 june 2016 15:11:21

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