War, drought worsen famine

Mozambique is reeling from the one-two punch of resurgent rebel activity and worsening drought. From early 1985 to June of this year, the nation had made great gains in combating famine. Since June, however, the number of people threatened with starvation has more than doubled - from 1.8 million to 3.8 million, according to UN figures.

The main cause is an extensive campaign by the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo) rebels to bring economic activity in Mozambique to a halt, say UN sources. The rebels have bombed roads, bridges, and factories, making it tough to produce and move goods, including aid to famine victims.

Because little is being exported, the nation doesn't have money to buy oil, which means farm machinery sits idle. And because store shelves are near empty, farmers have less incentive to work.

Overall, nearly 1 million of Mozambique's 14 million people have fled either to the cities or to neighboring countries. In September alone, 400,000 people were displaced.

Mozambique is also suffering from famine because of the drought, which, unlike other parts of Africa, has continued since 1981. But it is the rebels' recent drive that has put Mozambique ``in the most precarious situation of all of Africa's famine-stricken countries,'' a UN aid official says.

The rebels have stymied UN and other relief agencies. The UN says its biggest problem, besides rebel attacks and sabotage, is a shortage of fuel, spare parts, and maintenance facilities. The UN reports a good response from donor nations to pleas for emergency aid for Mozambique, though $24 million is still needed for nonfood aid.

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