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Conflicts and inclement weather hurt food security in Africa

High levels of food insecurity persist in the world, due largely to conflicts and to adverse climatic shocks, particularly in East African and Near East countries, where large numbers of people continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance, a new FAO report said

About 37 countries are in need of external assistance for food, unchanged from three months ago, according to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report

Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen. Inflation in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2017 to a 42 per cent annual rate. Violence has disrupted traditional trade routes around the Sahel, driving up prices, while food shortages are reported around southern and eastern Libya.

Inadequate and erratic rainfall poses a growing threat to food security in Southern Africa as well as in Eastern Africa, where many rural households have suffered from four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons. Cereal production in East Africa saw a 7.2 per cent drop, leading to increased stress in various countries.

Aggregate cereal production from Somalia's "deyr" rainy season is estimated to be 20 per cent below average. A similar pattern in rainfall and yields was observed in northeastern Tanzania. 

In Kenya, seasonal rainfall was up to 80 per cent below average levels, warranting close monitoring of rangeland conditions in eastern areas of the country.

Prices of staple cereals are also high in Ethiopia and the Sudan, where retail prices of sorghum, millet and wheat have doubled since last October. 

Unfavourable seasonal rains in southern Madagascar are expected to result in a further drop in crop yields in 2018.

Elsewhere, in Southern Africa, production is expected to fall from the record highs of 2017, heightening concerns about food security.