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Brace yourself for hunger pangs

Daily Nation
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

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The number of people facing food insecurity in Africa is likely to rise from March to June mainly due to increasing food insecurity in Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan, food security experts said in the latest analysis on Saturday.

The study by Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS Net) warned that if rains are below normal, deterioration in household food security could accelerate particularly in Somalia, eastern Kenya, and eastern and southern Ethiopia.

FEWS NET said an estimated 12.9 million people in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Rwanda face ‘Stressed to Crisis’ levels of food insecurity, representing substantial improvements in household food security even compared to three months ago.

“However, the number of people facing acute food insecurity is likely to rise from March to June, primarily due to increasing food insecurity in eastern and southern Ethiopia, in the conflict- affected Sudan-South Sudan border areas and within South Sudan,” it said.

According to FEWS Net, the reduction from 14.9 million to 12.9 million people facing acute food insecurity — Stressed to Crisis levels — from about three months ago is indicative of substantial improvements in food security at the end of 2012, primarily due to average to above average agricultural production and favourable pastoral conditions.

“Following a succession of average to above average crop harvests, a reduction in food prices, and a marked improvement in livestock productivity and prices, improvements were most notable in Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya,” the study said.   

The analysis came as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said it will soon test a new, faster and more precise way of measuring hunger and food insecurity in four pilot countries in Africa. The new approach relies on gathering information on the extent and severity of hunger from food-insecure people, through a carefully-designed annual survey conducted in collaboration with polling specialists Gallup.

Known as the Voices of the Hungry project, the new approach will be tested beginning this month on a pilot basis in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger — countries which have agreed to move towards the complete eradication of hunger.

The plan is to then extend the survey to more than 160,000 respondents in up to 150 countries covered by the Gallup World Poll and to publish updated results on each country every year.

According to FEWS Net, performance of rains between October to December of 2012 was near average in most parts of the region except for parts of the southern agropastoral areas in Gedo and lower and middle Juba and northeastern Somalia, parts of Somali region in Ethiopia, the northeastern parts of Kenya, eastern parts of Rwanda, and Kagera and Mara regions in Tanzania.

The study said significant improvements in household food security have occurred in most parts of Kenya. “Most pastoral and marginal agricultural areas are anticipated to remain at stressed levels through June, but they could worsen in the event that the April to June long rains are below average, which is a strong possibility,” it said.

The study said substantial improvements in food security in Somalia have resulted in the reduction of the population facing acute food insecurity to 1.05 million people in March down from 2. 1 million in December 2012.

However, FEWS Net said Crisis levels of acute food insecurity are anticipated to persist through June in northwestern, coastal pastoral areas that have had poor rains since 2010.

Food prices in South Sudan are projected to rise significantly during the April to June lean season, since household food stocks were exhausted in February, particularly in the border areas. “Informal trade is increasingly restricted.

The Government of Sudan (GoS) stopped 70 trucks of food from Sudan going to South Sudan in February,” FEWS Net said.


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