39 countries worldwide still face food crises, U.N agency says

The Food and Agriculture Organization mentioned drought, conflict and economic crises as the main reasons for the grave food situation in Africa, where a total of 24 countries were in need of assistance.

In eastern Africa, nearly 8 million people were still suffering from the effects of prolonged drought, despite some relief brought by recent rains in pastoral areas of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti, the agency said in a report.

In southern Africa, 12 million people faced a difficult food situation, even though conditions eased thanks to the current good 2006 cereal harvest and food aid distributions.

Populations in the semiarid nations along the Sahara, known as the Sahel, had recovered from last year's drought and locust-affected harvest, but access to food remained difficult due to low incomes and relatively high food prices, said the Rome-based agency.

In Asia, the victims of the 2004 tsunami in southern Asia still required food assistance, as did victims of last October's earthquake in Pakistan.

Other critical areas included Mongolia, Bangladesh as well as conflict-ridden Afghanistan, Iraq and Nepal.