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Bad Harvest, El Niño Spell Hunger For East Africa

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Poor harvests due to lack of rain, combined with worsening conflict and the El Nińo climatic effect, could leave millions more people in East Africa facing food shortages this year, the United Nations said Sept. 21.

A report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said that from Uganda to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia a drop in cereal production was likely to increase the nearly 20 million people already dependent on food assistance in one of the world’s poorest regions.

The perilous situation could be worsened by the El Nińo climatic effect, which brings heavy rains towards the end of the year that produce floods and mudslides, ruining crops, killing livestock and damaging infrastructure, the FAO said.

The food security situation is dire in conflict-torn Somalia, which faces its worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years, with approximately half the population – an estimated 3.6 million people – in need of emergency aid, the FAO said.

That includes 1.4 million rural people affected by severe drought, and 1.3 million internally displaced people as a result of escalating violence, the FAO said.

In Ethiopia, a partial failure of the secondary crop season, known as the belg, is expected to hike the number of people in need of emergency assistance to 6.2 million from 1.3 million at present.

In Kenya, the vital maize crop which accounts for 80 per cent of annual cereal production, is forecast 28 per cent below usual levels at 1.84 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, a fourth successive poor harvest is expected in Uganda, where crops are expected to be 50 per cent below their usual levels.

With more than one million people already food insecure in Uganda, the number could rise steadily this year, the FAO said.

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