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HORN OF AFRICA: 18 million facing food shortages (IRIN)

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

ADDIS ABABA, 20 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - At least 18 million people are facing serious food deficits in the greater Horn of Africa, with more half of them in Ethiopia, a famine early warning network said on Tuesday.

Poor rains and high crop prices have sparked the shortages, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Network (FEWS Net), which urged the international community to address the perennial hunger crisis in the Horn by improving the livelihoods of people to make them less dependent.

FEWS Net said slashing barriers to allow a greater flow of domestic and cross-border trade in food could also help to alleviate widespread hunger.

The report noted that in Kenya, in the northwestern Turkana area and the northern area of Marsabit, shortages of water and pasture were fuelling conflict among rival tribes and had sparked clashes.

"There are already reports of rising child malnutrition in parts of northeastern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia," FEWS Net's Greater Horn of Africa food security bulletin said.

The report covers Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.

FEWS Net found that in Ethiopia, 9.2 million people were facing hunger, in Uganda, some 2.69 were experiencing shortages and in Eritrea, more than half the population were in need.

"In agricultural areas, rainfall performance and crop prospects are mixed," the report observed. "Crop production in eastern and coastal areas will be below average, due to insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall."

The most vulnerable groups were nomads, who survived by herding animals rather than farming or trade; families were being forced to wreak havoc on already fragile environments by burning wood to make charcoal to sell.

"As in other pastoralist areas, very poor pasture conditions and insufficient water have forced pastoralists to migrate with their animals over longer distances from homesteads and markets," FEWS Net commented.

"This has disrupted the normal sources of food (mainly milk) for children, women and the elderly, as they are typically left behind," it added.

See full report: http://www.fews.net/