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World Food
Mundial de

2002 The Food Aid Organization of the United Nations


ROME, ITALY --- In response to mounting concern among the general public about the vast hunger crisis gripping the African continent, the United Nations World Food Programme today announced the creation of a global campaign to assist more than 38 million victims.

The "Africa Hunger Alert" campaign is in reaction to spontaneous grass-roots initiatives originating among student communities in the United States and Canada and that now stretch from Europe to Hong Kong. These student and community groups have committed themselves to help generate an international response to the catastrophic conditions in Africa caused primarily by shifting weather patterns, as well as by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and, in some countries, political instability and failed economic policies.

"By announcing the 'Africa Hunger Alert' campaign, WFP is signaling its commitment to link up with ordinary citizens to alert the international community to the enormity of the crisis faced by millions of innocent men, women and children who run the very real risk of death by starvation," said James T. Morris, WFP Executive Director.

"We appeal to governments, private charities, non-governmental organizations, citizens' groups and everyone who cares about fundamental human decency to join this campaign. The scope and depth of this crisis is unprecedented and it will require an unprecedented and urgent response."

The hunger crisis in Africa has grown particularly acute in the wake of two major emergencies this year-in the Southern Africa region and in the Horn of Africa. In the six countries of Southern Africa-Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique-almost 15 million people are threatened by starvation. In Ethiopia and Eritrea an additional 11-15 million are at risk - and the number could go higher.

"Without a massive response, the humanitarian community will not be able to counter these looming disasters," Morris said. "We are desperately appealing to donor countries to stave off this horrifying catastrophe, but the reality is - additional resources are scarce."

"Government aid budgets have been stretched to the limit while at the same time, drought in some grain producing countries has caused sharp price increases which means that today's aid dollar buys even fewer emergency food supplies."

WFP is just one participant in this global campaign, to be launched on 16 December and to run for at least three months. Open to everyone, WFP will provide support, including a special page www.wfp.org/AfricaHungerAlert on its website. Information on the crisis and the initiative will be available to lobby governments.

Participating organisations will be able promote their activities and ideas on a special "Africa Hunger Alert" bulletin board on the web page. They are also encouraged to set up web sites of their own and to join in a coalition effort to generate urgent resources. The web page will also give updates on how much money has been raised from governments and individuals and how it is being used.

To coincide with the launch event on 16 December, WFP's webpage www.wfp.org/AfricaHungerAlert will provide a video showing footage of the crisis across the continent and a statement by James T. Morris. This video, to be shown at various fundraiser gatherings, as well as by local and international media, will help to highlight the needs.

Morris said the international community had a special obligation to respond in the wake of the agreement by governments to implement the United Nations Millenium Goals during the special UN summit held in New York City in 2000. Among other pledges, world leaders committed themselves and their governments to halving the number of hungry people in the world to 400 million by 2015.

"Right now in Africa we are confronted with a fundamental choice," Morris said. "We no longer have the luxury of making things better. The issue is whether we can prevent the situation from getting worse. The stark fact is that 38 million human beings are threatened by starvation."

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2001, WFP fed more than 77 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

Questions & Answers:

Emerging Food Crisis in Ethiopia
Updated 11 November 2002

Why is Ethiopia confronted with a new emergency?

Ethiopian farmers and pastoralists and their livestock are heavily dependent on rain. In July 2002, farmers and pastoralists of eastern, northern and southern Ethiopia were faced with exceptionally dry weather resulting from the partial failure of the February to May short belg rains and the late start of the June to September long meher rains.
Several assessments of the affected areas showed a serious emergency situation of increased livestock death, food and water shortages, related health problems and increased malnutrition among the weak and vulnerable.
The early cessation of belg rains and the late start of meher rains have caused widespread long cycle crop losses at an early stage and further reduced pasture and water resources. This situation has in turn severely limited access to a green harvest of maize, important lean season foods, and availability of livestock products.

Does Ethiopia lack the facilities and expertise to store rainwater or groundwater to provide supplies during drought years?

Though efforts continue to store water in dams and micro-catchments, they are not on a scale that can supply enough water to counter a major drought. Soil and water conservation measures initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture with support from the international community have improved water retention and reduced soil loss. This is boosting yields in good years and improved chances of crop survival in poorer years. However, when rainfall is much less than normal, crop failures can be widespread as they are this year.
How many people are affected by this situation?
A recent multi-agency mid-meher season assessment estimated that between October and December 2002, the number of people in need of immediate assistance will peak at 6.2 million people. This is out of a total population of 67 million. For 2003 between 10 and 14 million people will need assistance.

How much emergency food aid is needed right now in Ethiopia?

The national DPPC and humanitarian agencies appealed for 273,000 tonnes of food to alleviate the effects of an extended lean season in Ethiopia from October to the end of December 2002.

What is the estimated food need for Ethiopia in the coming months?

Recently confirmed contributions have largely covered the relief food needs for November and December 2002. However, the needs for the first three months of 2003 are expected to be at least 300,000 tonnes of cereals; the confirmed contributions for 2003 so far are only 70,000 tonnes so there is a large gap to be filled. For 2003, 1.5 to 2 million tonnes are expected to be required.

Will the situation continue to deteriorate? What is the prospect for the main harvest later in the year?

The impact of the current drought is expected to go beyond the immediate needs for October to December 2002, as its effect on the food security status of the population in 2003 will be significant.
Through efforts on the part of Government, NGO's and the farmers themselves, some seeds were distributed and failed crops were replanted with low yielding short maturing crops like teff, barley and pulses.
In addition, late rainfall has affected the surplus producing areas in the west resulting in the late planting of long cycle crops. Successful harvest of short cycle crops in affected areas as well as long cycle crops in the west will largely depend on rains extending beyond their normal cessation time.
Experts estimate reductions of cereal production to be about 15 percent which, given average meher production, is 1.5 million tonnes, potentially devastating in a country that is already food deficit.
The implication of a significant decline in average Meher crop production is not to be dismissed. Unlike recent crises in Ethiopia that affected mainly Belg dependent and pastoralist this crisis will have an impact on many more Ethiopians.
Approximately 75% of the population in Ethiopia rely on their own Meher harvest for the majority of their cereal consumption and the remaining population relies on purchase of this harvest. Significant reductions in the Meher harvest and subsequent increases in prices will thus affect the majority of the population in one way or another.

When is the next harvest due and what is the estimate of the shortfall?

The main harvest is ongoing - most of the main staple crops (cereals) are harvested in November and December. Early forecasts indicate that the harvest is likely to be around 15 percent less than a normal harvest. A normal harvest is over 12 million tonnes but is not fully adequate to meet needs. UN WFP and FAO teams are currently assessing the harvest and they will present an accurate estimate of the harvest in December.

How near is Ethiopia to food self-sufficiency in good years?

In good years, such as in 2001, Ethiopia has produced around 95 percent of its cereals requirements (the main staple foods are cereals).

How many people will be affected in 2003 if the main harvest is bad?

Working with three scenarios, multi-agency needs assessment teams prepared contingency plans for 2003. While it is difficult to project the exact number of beneficiaries at this time for 2003, the teams attempted to forecast needs given three scenarios (best, mid and worst case). The scenarios used to project potential food and income shortfalls in 2003 are:
• In the worse case, erratic rains would continue finally withdrawing early,
• In the mid case, rains would return to normal in distribution and cessation, and
• In the best case, rains would end after normal cessation dates, i.e. mid September in the north and gradually withdrawing in end October in the south.

How is the Ethiopian Government reacting to this emergency?

The Government of Ethiopia issued an appeal in July 2002 for an additional 350,000 tonnes of food. An appeal for non-food assistance was issued on 3 September followed by another appeal for food aid on 7 October. It has responded to the increased needs estimated in July by committing 45,000 tonnes of cereals to the relief operation and donating cash to the affected areas.
The Government is doing everything it can to achieve a timely response by the donor community to avoid large scale starvation in 2003 but it needs outside help.
WFP and the government emergency relief agency have been working closely with all key donors since mid-July to get new and significant contributions soon. Donors have been invited on visits to affected areas.
Information packets have been provided by WFP. Contingency planning presentations, including rainfall analysis and maps, have been made by WFP for donors and visitors. Co-ordination meetings have been held weekly since July with all players (government, donors, NGO, UN) and visits to affected areas were organised by the WFP, the UN and the Government. WFP and government press releases have been issued.

How much food is the World Food Programme providing?

Under its current emergency operation WFP plans to cover about 50% of overall food needs for 2002. This operation runs from April 2002 to March 2003 and is intended, with the support of donors, to provide 389,577 tonnes to between 2.2 to 4.5 million people.

How much food has been distributed so far?

In September, as a result of limited food aid resources, only 65,000 tonnes of the required 87,000 tonnes was available for distributions. This amount covered the needs of 5.2 million beneficiaries (at a ration rate of 12.5 kg).
In October, against the needs of 6.2 million beneficiaries, totally 78,000 tonnes, only 50,000 tonnes of WFP food has been available for distributions, and allocations could only go to the highest priority areas. So far this month, 27,000 tonnes of food have been dispatched.
For November and December, against needs of around 5 millions beneficiaries (requirements 125,000 tonnes of cereals) around 117,000 tonnes are expected to be available (about 90 percent of requests at the reduced ration rate of 12.5 kg instead of 15 kg per person per month).

Donors are urged to confirm pledges already announced so that food can be made available for distributions. Further donations are urgently sought to cover the substantial needs of the first quarter of 2003.

WFP is already providing food aid to over 13 million people in Southern Africa. Will Ethiopia compete with other countries for food aid?
The presence of other drought emergencies in Africa (Southern Africa, Eritrea and southern Sudan, and possibly the Sahel) will raise the stakes for Ethiopia to be able to ensure that substantial and continuous resources flow in. But we think donors will not want to be accused of neglecting some operations because of the needs of other operations.
It is well know that food aid pledges will take months to reach Ethiopia. How will WFP meet the shortfall in the meantime?
The Government's emergency food reserve has a physical stock of 113,000 tonnes as of 1 November. With expected repayments and projected loans, it will reach a level of 110,000 tonnes by the end of December. Therefore new contributions to meet the shortfall can be immediately drawn down from the reserve.

It seems that Ethiopia is confronted to a never-ending cycle of famine and drought. What is the reason?

Chronic food insecurity is endemic in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is among the most poverty-stricken countries in the world; the majority of people have no reserves to help them cope with even one poor harvest. Food security programming and other sustainable development initiatives have been given a high priority. Unfortunately the recovery period since the last major drought has not been sufficient.
With poor rainfall particularly affecting the rural poor, both sustainable solutions as well as relief is needed so that these people can have the means to better confront and even prevent the negative effects of drought or even flooding or other natural calamities.
Will the drought this year be a repeat of the 1983-84 famine?
Circumstances are different from 1984. We think everyone is responding early enough to avoid a disaster. The current dry weather follows two years of good rainfall, so not a cumulative effect as in 1983/84 when several years of drought in a row were recorded.

Other reasons why the current situation will be different from the one in 1983-84:

• Early warning systems are functioning more efficiently
• The Emergency Food Reserve has more capacity
• Logistics at port and for internal transport has more capacity

• The Government and the international community now have a close working relationship.
Is it correct to say that more people will be threatened by this drought than by the one in 1984?
It is expected to be greater in absolute terms. However, due to population growth, in relative terms the number of people affected is comparable:

• In 1984/85, there were 8 million people needing relief food assistance (18 percent of the population of 45 million)
• In 2002/2003, we estimate that between 10 and 14 million people will need relief food assistance (between 15 and 21 percent of the current population of 67 million)

Do you have the logistics the logistics capacity to handle a sudden increase in food aid needs using only the Port of Djibouti?

A logistics review has been carried out and thanks to the many improvements made by WFP in 2000 to increase carrying capacity at the port of Djibouti and secure reliable internal transport, any substantial increase in food needs will not pose a problem. However, it will be important that donors' pledges are made in a timely manner so that shipments are scheduled to match the food requirements through the year.

For more information please contact:
Trevor Rowe, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Tel. +39-06-65132602
Francis Mwanza, Senior Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132623
Caroline Hurford, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132330
Rene McGuffin, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132430
Christiane Berthiaume, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564
Brenda Barton, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Nairobi, Tel. +254-2-622594
Khaled Mansour, Public Affairs Officer, WFP New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196
Sara Piepmeier, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Chicago, Tel. +1-847-864-3665, Cell. +1-847-530-6567, piepss@ameritech.net


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