Update, The African famine

You've seen Phase 1 of the African food-aid emergency. Now you're seeing Phase 2. Next year it'll be a new drama: African aid, Phase 3 -- aid in transition. Africa will still need famine relief in 1986, but its shape and aims are changing.

Strategy for Phase 1 this year: United Nations aid offices, government officials in donor capitals, and dozens of private agencies rushed as many tons of grain to Africa as possible. Propelling them: public opinion aroused by stark television pictures and the Band Aid/Live Aid global rock concerts.

Phase 2: mountains of food aid in African ports had to be hauled by truck, rail, and air to warehouses and then to the desperate emergency camps where the starving waited.

Now Phase 3: rains have come to most of Africa below the Sahara. Food stocks are starting to build. Harvests expected to be good. The crisis is not over but eased -- and turning into a new challenge of a transition to continuing, longer-term help.

``This doesn't mean people at home can stop giving or being concerned,'' says a senior official with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at its headquarters in Rome.

Rain has improved sorghum prospects in Sudan so much that some might be available for Ethiopia by end of the year.

Some areas have had only patchy rain: northern Darfur and parts of Kordofan in western Sudan, plus the Red Sea hills in Sudan, parts of Wollo Province in Ethiopia, and more.

Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique, Angola, and Botswana will all need food aid next year. How much? We'll know in two to four weeks, when FAO and individual donor crop-assessment teams report findings from their own visits, local statistics, and space satellite imagery.

Meanwhile:

Sudan: Rains substantial, widespread. Harvest surplus expected by some UN experts to be highest in five years. Italy has given 100 trucks, OPEC oil exports 25, with eight coming from Canadian private agency, 20 from West Germany, 14 from Holland, and some from Band Aid.

Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe (and Morocco): Food situation ``back to normal,'' says FAO.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Sudan: Roughly 80 percent or more of all food aid pledged this year already delivered -- although large amounts still backlogged in parts, including Port Sudan (387,000 tons), Assab (74,000 tons), Dakar (27,000 tons). Figures from UN World Food Program (WFP) now holding annual council meeting in Rome.

Chad: Situation in this landlocked country twice the size of France so much better after rains, that WFP estimates no emergency food aid will be needed next year. Harvest this year likely to leap from last year's disastrous 315,000 tons to 600,000 to 650,000 tons this year. Food aid carried over from this year to next: 77,000 tons. This is enough to meet needs.

Sudden problem in Chad as this column went to press: FAO office in N'Djamena threatened to send home five transport technicians and stop running 115 grain trucks unless Italy came up with a promised $1.5 million immediately.

Director-General of Chad Natural Calamities Ministry flew to Rome in last-ditch effort to save funds. Sources say he received new promises.

Niger: Government stopped massive food-aid distribution Sept. 20. Stocks are good. Harvest looks good. Government wants to avoid aid and harvest grain flooding market, driving down prices, and hurting growers. This column, keeping readers abreast of the famine and relief efforts, will appear most fridays

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