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Drought and conflict aggravate hunger in East Africa, warns UN food agency

Fighting hunger

21 September 2009 – The crop prospects in the Horn of Africa for this year are poor, on the heels of below-average rainfall, violence and displacement, will intensify hunger in the region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cautioned today.

With almost 20 million people in East Africa dependent on food assistance, this number may increase as the hunger season gets under way, especially among marginal farmers, pastoralists and low-income people in urban areas.

Also compounding the problem is the El Niño meteorological phenomenon, which typically brings heavy rains to the area at the end of the year. This could result in floods and destroy crops, livestock, infrastructure, and homes, FAO said in a press release issued in Rome.

Although prices have been on a downward trend recently, prices of maize, a major staple, are still higher than they were two years ago, with households having low purchasing power.

This year's harvest is predicted to be the fourth successive poor harvest in Uganda, with some regions possibly seeing food production well below 50 per cent average. Over one million people are estimated to be food insecure in the country, with more possibly becoming hungry.

In neighbouring Kenya, this year's poor maize crop – combined with already low cereal stocks, export bans high cereal prices – has reduced access to food.

FAO's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit warned that Somalia is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years, with half the population – 3.6 million people – in need of life-saving assistance. This includes 1.4 million people in rural areas affected by severe drought, over 650,000 urban poor facing high food prices and 1.3 million people who have been uprooted by violence.

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