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At Least 13 Million People Face Starvation in Eastern Africa

About 12.9 million people in eastern Africa are suffering from food insecurity, according to a new study launched in Nairobi on Friday.

This number is however lower than the 14.9 million who needed food assistance at the end of last year.

The report published by the Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS Net) shows that the improved situation was mainly due to good harvests and favourable pastoral conditions across many countries in the region in late 2012 and early 2013.

Well above-normal rains have been widespread since mid-March, marking the onset of the March-to-May rainy season over northern and western Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, the Lake Victoria basin, western, southern and north-eastern Kenya, southern and central Somalia, and eastern and south-eastern Ethiopia.

The study said planting of crops was currently going on across much of the region and that favourable germination had occurred in several areas.

The March-to-May rains, according to a forecast by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre, are expected to continue at normal to well above normal downpours over the western and central sectors of the region.

April is typically the peak month of this rainfall season. Rains were heavier than usual and in some areas came earlier than expected in March, mostly in the eastern sector of the region, FEWS Net added.

However, food security experts have warned of a looming food shortage in Kenya amid heavy rains that have disrupted transport and farming activities across East Africa.

The chairman of the Kenya Society for Agricultural Professionals, Paul Mbuni, said that the immediate impact of the flash floods would be an increase in the prices of agricultural produce. He said the destruction of infrastructure such as roads and bridges in agricultural areas will reduce food supplies, leading to food insecurity towards the end of this year.

“If the rains continue with the same intensity for the next three weeks, we expect food shortages and escalation of food prices in the months of May and June this year,” Mr Mbuni said.

Kenya’s agriculture is primarily rain-fed, Mr Mbuni said, which makes it fragile and prone to disruption by natural calamities and disasters.

Source: Arusha Times

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