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UN relief officials set to visit southern Africa for first-hand look at looming food crisis

UN relief officials set to visit southern Africa for first-hand look at looming food crisis

United Nations relief officials are set to travel next week to southern Africa for a first-hand look at the looming humanitarian crisis which involves some 13 million people facing the prospect of starvation, a UN spokesman said today in New York.

Starting Tuesday, James Morris, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa and the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and Carolyn McAskie, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, will lead a two-week mission to Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland, the six countries most affected by the crisis.

Representatives from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are expected to join the mission, which is scheduled to meet with government officials, representatives of the donor community, UN country teams, and staff of non-governmental organizations to discuss the ongoing response to humanitarian needs in the region.

The mission will review the impact of HIV/AIDS on the crisis and assess how comprehensive assistance efforts are, with a view to identifying gaps in programming and funding, spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing.

The team will also aim to provide recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of response efforts and identify actions to support longer-term agricultural recovery and food security.

Members will also work to mobilize the international community's support for a UN appeal, launched in July, which seeks $611 million to provide the necessary assistance to prevent the region's current crisis from becoming a humanitarian catastrophe.