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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK

World: Africa

Africa starvation warning

Somalia suffered a severe famine in 1992

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are facing starvation, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned.

A special UN report on food prospects in Africa also warns of an "extremely bleak" outlook for Angola.

The FAO report warns that war and civil strife remain a threat to food security in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

It calls on the international community to find new ways of getting food to those who are threatened by hunger.

Both the Red Cross and the United Nations say they are already receiving reports that people are dying of hunger in Somalia.

The FAO said six years of poor harvests, coupled with continued insecurity, had led to severe and widespread malnutrition, and some starvation-related deaths.

A senior FAO official told the BBC that despite what he called pockets of improvement in some areas, the overall situation remained desperate.

The agency estimates that one million people in Somalia are short of food, with 400,000 of them at risk of starvation.


A series of bad harvests has been compounded by a severe drought.

The International Red Cross has been delivering water to thirsty nomads in north-eastern Somalia.

Neighbouring countries have imposed import bans on Somali livestock because of fears of disease - a move which aid workers say has made the Somali food crisis worse.

Livestock is the country's main export, and the ban has caused plummeting prices, leaving herders unable to buy basic goods.

Warnings last year

Warnings of starvation came late last year from another UN agency, the World Food Programme.

But security problems have been hampering the delivery of emergency supplies.

FAO officials say aid workers have been unable to reach large numbers of Somalis forced on the move in search of food and water.

War creates hunger

In Angola, the ongoing civil war is named as the main cause of food shortages.

"Large-scale population displacement in rural areas is reported, with farm families abandoning their farms and homes to take refuge in government-held towns and cities or in neigbouring countries. Some reports say the Angolan country-side is being systematically depopulated."

With farmers abandoning their farms to seek refuge in safer areas, the FAO expects a sharp drop in food production during 1999.

It predicts that large-scale food aid will be necessary.

But the report warns that aid will have to be distributed mainly by expensive air transport, because of widespread insecurity and land mines.

The report also records disrupted food supplies in all the areas of the continent currently affected by war: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and the Great Lakes Region.

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