4. IS THE FOOD SITUATION GETTING BETTER OR WORSE?
In May 2002, the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM) estimated the maximum
number of people in need of food assistance in the six countries through March 2003 to be 12.8 million,
requiring 880,000 MT of cereal food aid. The current VAC assessments estimate the number of people in
need of assistance (14.4 million) to be 12.5% more than the CFSAM estimate, and the required quantity of
cereal (1 million MT) to be 13.6% higher. This increase is partly due to: (1) the benefit of having the
assessment conducted closer to the time period when the crisis is expected to be most severe; and (2) using
a larger sample size and more in depth community and household level techniques. It also reflects final
production levels, insufficient grain import levels, high and increasing prices, and the deteriorating effect of
people engaging in negative, or distress, coping strategies.
As forecasted in May, and confirmed in the current assessments, the food crisis is progressively worsening
as the consumption year advances. Household food stocks are largely depleted and households are depending
on purchases of cereal, which may not be available and/or may be sold at prices far surpassing purchasing
power. These trends are certain to worsen in the coming months before the next main harvest. In
most of the countries, the months of January-March are typically вЂњlean seasonsвЂќ, but this year, if government,
commercial and humanitarian response is not adequate, this could be the season of catastrophe.