UN food agency appeals for $500 million to avert starvation in southern Africa
In a bid to stave off southern Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis in a decade, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched a $500 million appeal to provide emergency food relief to millions of people in the region facing the prospect of starvation.
The $507 million needed to fund close to one million tons of food would be enough to feed 10.2 million people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland until the next main harvest in March 2003, said WFP, which at present has only one quarter of the supplies needed for the next three months.
Launching the appeal at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said that in addition to a drought, a variety of factors ranging from weather conditions to regional economic decline and political issues complicated the situation.
“You have this whole panorama of issues coming together to cause this really serious problem, where lots of people are at risk of loss of life over the next several months if the world donor community doesn’t come together and provide relief,” he said.
Despite the fact that many donors had already contributed to WFP’s previous appeals, new donations were urgently required, Mr. Morris said, stressing that it was vital to acquire enough supplies before October when the region’s rainy season starts, which make many rural areas inaccessible.
“We have time,” the WFP chief said as he urged donors to be generous. “If people respond in the next few weeks, we have time to do our work and save many millions of lives.”
Meanwhile in nearby Angola, nearly 1.5 million people were in urgent need of food assistance, according to a new report released today by the WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The ceasefire agreement signed in April between the Angolan Government and the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) revealed the extent of suffering by people trapped in rural areas by the conflict, the UN agencies said. Large numbers of malnourished people have since made their way to reception and transit centres and up to 500,000 are reported to be in a critical nutritional situation.
WFP said it planned to help 1.24 million people, including internally displaced persons with insufficient or no access to land, the families of UNITA soldiers, the vulnerable population in previously inaccessible areas and refugees returning to Angola.