A woman moves fodder for storage in Kenya, a nation that has seen seasonal rainfall up to 80% below average. Photo courtesy of FAO.
ROME, ITALY – Food insecurity due to conflicts and weather patterns are perpetuating high levels of food insecurity, particularly in the East African and Near East countries, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO).

The organization said 37 countries are in need of food assistance, unchanged from three months ago, according to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation.

Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen. Conflict is displacing millions of people, hampering agricultural activities and, in many cases, also driving basic food prices up sharply, the report notes.

Inflation in the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2017 to a 42% annual rate. Violence has disrupted traditional trade routes around the Sahel, driving up prices, while food shortages are reported around southern and eastern Libya, the report said.

In Southern Africa and Eastern Africa, erratic rainfall has led to four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons.

Cereal output overall in Africa rebounded in 2017, but in East Africa it dropped 7.2%.

Recently-concluded harvests of secondary season cereal crops are forecast to be below average in southeastern Kenya, northeastern Tanzania and southern Somalia, the report said.

Aggregate cereal production from Somalia's "deyr" rainy season is estimated to be 20% below average as seasonal rains had a late start and an early cessation. A similar pattern in rainfall and yields was observed in northeastern Tanzania. South Sudan's cereal output from the 2017 planting seasons is estimated to be the smallest since the conflict started at the end of 2013.

Drought conditions in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia have eased, but not enough to fully offset accumulated deficits in soil moisture. In Kenya, seasonal rainfall was up to 80% below average levels.

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. The price jump was triggered by the removal of government wheat subsidies, which increased demand for substitute cereals, and by weakening currencies.

The 37 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.