Wednesday, July 25, 2007

UN warns of pending food shortages

The top United Nations humanitarian official today, highlighting the impact of severe droughts in several southern African countries .
"We're anticipating quite serious problems of food insecurity" in the region, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said at a press briefing in New York.

Swaziland was hit by the worst drought in 15 years and its maize harvest of 26,000 metric tons was the poorest ever. Lesotho declared a food emergency earlier this month after suffering the worst drought in three decades and a 40 per cent dip in the maize harvest, a staple crop. Nearly 400,000 people - or one fifth of the population - will be in need of emergency food aid as a result. Elsewhere in the region, Zimbabwe's cereals harvest plummeted 44 per cent since last year, resulting in one third of the population requiring some form of food assistance by early next year. In spite of the Government's imports of maize, wheat and rice, will still face a gap of approximately 350,000 tons of cereals which will mainly be met by the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Also highlighted the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which he characterized as a "long-running humanitarian crisis" due to food insecurity, limited basic services and problems brought about by conflict, communicable diseases and natural disasters. Of particular concern is the situation in the country's volatile east, where some 700,000 people have been displaced by recent instability. If large-scale fighting breaks out in the area,
"there is a real fear of very severe humanitarian consequences for the civilian population caught in the middle of that fighting," Mr. Holmes said.

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