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    AIDS, drought, war threaten famine in half of Africa

    Drought, AIDS and conflict have combined to create serious food shortages in half the countries in Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report published Monday.

    Twenty-four of the 38 countries seriously affected around the world were in Africa, seven were in Asia and five in Latin America, it said. But in the European zone, food was lacking only in Russia's strife-torn republic of Chechnya and in Serbia-Montenegro, which has a refugee crisis.

    In eastern Africa, inadequate rainfall had left 7.2 million people facing shortages in Ethiopia and 3.6 million in Sudan, the FAO said. Another 1.9 million were affected in Eritrea, 1.6 million in Tanzania and as many in Uganda, 1.2 million in Kenya and 580 000 in Somalia, it said.

    "Overall, the food security situation of a large number of people affected by civil strife and drought in the region is highly precarious," it said.

    Shortages loomed in all other regions of Africa, except the countries around the rim of the Sahara desert known as the Sahel.