March 25, 2002

Food security crisis worsens

Mozambique, struggling to cope with the devastating effects of flooding during the 2000 and 2001 rainy seasons, now faces a worsening food security crisis because of a dry spell.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and government's National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) said that food security in the southern, central and western provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Tete had worsened. WFP Information Officer Inyene Udoyen said: "We've been running an emergency operation since last year, helping communities to recover from the floods. Due to this long dry spell we have extended our emergency operation to end in early April. We've also extended the number of people we assist from 100,000 in January to 190,000 in March."

WFP is assisting about 62,000 people in Tete alone. Crop assessment missions that had been carried out in May and September 2001 in all provinces, except Cabo Delgado, had concluded that more than one-third of the country's total number of districts produced much less food last year than normal. Udoyen said: "The main thing is to assess the situation to see what the response should be, we cannot act until government acts and makes a request [which would only happen once assessments have been completed]."

Yohannes Giorgis, a disaster management advisor at the INGC, said the exact number of people in need at present was unknown. A team comprising members of INGC, WFP and government ministries would complete an assessment of the food security situation by the end of the week. Giorgis said: "Last year's floods impacted on food production and this has been compounded by the shortage of rain this year. The rainy season ends officially at the end of this month and there has been no rain in the southern and central parts of the country. There has been some rain in northern parts. "Even under normal circumstances there are some areas that are chronically affected by food shortages. [Following the dry spell] there's going to be some problems. It seems we have a crisis," he said. A thorough crop assessment would be done soon, Giorgis said. "It's going to give us a very clear picture of what the shortage will be in the coming months." (IRIN)

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