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10 Million Africans Face Food Crisis, says UN - 2002-08-21

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says more than 10 million people in in east and central Africa are now facing a food crisis, a problem that has already affected millions of people in southern Africa. The WFP now says people also need help to survive in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda.

The World Food Program says east and central Africa are facing a humanitarian crisis, which is similar in some ways to the food crisis in southern Africa.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says millions of people are threatened with hunger and many will not survive without international assistance. "We cannot talk in these countries of a proper famine. That would be too strong," she said. "Nevertheless, people are very hungry. They are suffering. There are enormous cases of malnutrition. In Burundi, let us say, people are living in camps and dependent only on our food aid to survive. And if there is insecurity, we cannot bring that aid. Obviously, this does have dire consequences on the nutritional level of people. You find a lot of kids that do suffer from malnutrition problems in many countries."

Ms. Berthiaume says the food crisis in east and central Africa is caused by a combination of drought and war. She says drought is the chief problem in Kenya and Ethiopia. In other countries, war adds to the problem.

"You have as well Uganda, where the unrest in the north has provoked the movement of another half-a-million displaced people in the north because of the fighting and the attacks that are going on," said the WFP spokeswoman. "We are helping in Uganda, more than one million people. The same thing also in Sudan. There, almost three million people depend on WFP food aid to survive."

Ms. Berthiaume says WFP has received less than one-half of the $540 million it needs, and the agency is urgently appealing for funds to help people in the 10 nations survive until the next harvest in March.