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WFP to Feed Up to 50 Million People in Africa


The World Food Program says it will need to feed between 40 million and 50 million people throughout Africa this year. It says the Horn of Africa is severely affected by drought.

The World Food Program says the drought in the Horn of Africa shows no sign of abating. It says predictions for the coming rainy-season are not good. And if the rains do not come, it warns, the number of people who will be in need of international food assistance will increase dramatically.

The United Nations estimates seven-million people in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya are short of food. WFP Director of Operations Jean-Jacques Graisse says the agency, for now, will feed 5.7 million people. But, he says, that number may have to be adjusted upwards.

"The situation in the Horn of Africa is serious," he said. "It is extremely visible … because you have, in nomadic, pastoralist areas, millions of carcasses of animals that have not made it, because water has been so dramatically unavailable. And, feeding programs are going on full speed in all these regions, which means that, so far, we have managed to avert a true famine."

The World Food Program's biggest and most expensive operation is in Sudan. Graisse says six-million people will need food aid this year. He expects the bill to come to around $900 million. He says this vast country has few roads. Therefore, much of the food has to be delivered by air. He says the cost of maintaining an air service, of running barges up the Nile and of repairing roads is enormous. He adds that other countries in great need of help include Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger and other countries in the Sahel.

Amid this dismal outlook, WFP's Jean-Jacques Graisse, says the situation in southern Africa is improving. He says good rain this year will alleviate the dreadful food shortages that created a crisis last year for millions of people.

While the drought is gone, he says, food shortages continue to be acute, because of the region's financial and social situations. He says millions of children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and life expectancy has dropped by 30 years.

"You have, therefore, a labor force, which is increasingly disappearing or sick, and, therefore, no longer as strong and as capable of farming the land, as it would have in normal circumstances," said Graisse.

The World Food Program runs feeding programs in about 40 African countries. Last year, the agency spent $2.7 billion for its worldwide operations. About two-thirds of that money went to Africa. That ratio is expected to be maintained this year.