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Food Supply Precarious And Likely to Worsen

UN Integrated Regional Information Network (Nairobi), 19 May 2001

The food supply outlook for parts of Sudan was highly precarious after two successive years of reduced cereal harvests and depletion of stocks, the FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) reported on Monday. Despite government efforts to mitigate food shortages by lifting customs duties on food imports and other measures, the food supply situation was likely to tighten further in the coming months with the start of the ’lean season’ (before the October/November harvest), it said. The cereal requirement after commercial imports was estimated at 240,000 mt, but the latest estimates of emergency food aid - in pipeline and under mobilisation—amounted to only 55,000 mt, leaving an uncovered gap of about 157,000 mt, it warned.

Lower harvests and stock levels had led to a sharp rise in cereal prices and reduced access to food for poorer sections of the population, according to GIEWS. The purchasing power of large numbers of people, particularly pastoralists, has been seriously eroded, it said, adding that vulnerable groups had started migrating for work and joining food-for-work schemes in dramatic numbers. With the ’lean season’ just starting and only a fraction of the food aid requirement pledged so far, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months, it added. The GIEWS cited the latest estimates of people in need of urgent food assistance because of drought or famine or both, at some 2.97 million people.

Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies have reported an influx of internally-displaced people (IDPs) into Wau in recent weeks, due partly to the drought situation, but also attributed to increased insecurity arising from raiding by pro-government Murahilin militia forces. USAID’s Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) reported that there and elsewhere in southern Sudan food options remained limited, households food stocks were exhausted and markets were bare, so there was increasing dependence on [food] relief and hard-to-find wild foods, it said.