Skip to main content

Relief operations in southern Africa face 400,000-ton food shortfall - UN

Relief operations in southern Africa face 400,000-ton food shortfall - UN

The humanitarian relief operation for southern Africa is facing a shortage of 400,000 tons of food as the rainy season, the most vulnerable period, approaches, the United Nations Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office (RIASCO) said today.

Using early projections of the current planting season, RIASCO said production had been lower than normal and that additional food assistance would likely be needed until the summer harvest in May-June 2003.

Based on the number of seeds sold, "even the next season will not enable farmers to produce enough food to support the population," the office said. In Zimbabwe where 1.8 million tons is consumed, only 1.2 million hectares of seeds could be planted with a possible yield of between 720,000 to 960,000 tons.

"If El Niño intensifies as expected, crop production could drop even lower, making it still more likely that food relief efforts will even need to stretch beyond June 2003," RIASCO said.

While the recent contribution of €62 million (euros) by the European Union would help to counter significant cereal shortfalls in Zambia and Zimbabwe from December to March, urgent help is needed from donors in order to ensure that the food pipeline is not broken in the early part of next year.

Apart from food aid, southern Africa also faces problems in the health, education and fuel sectors, RIASCO said, adding that only 15 per cent of funds required for the health sector has been collected in a sub-region weakened by HIV/AIDS, cholera and malaria.

Citing studies that reveal a correlation between food shortages and increases in school dropouts, the Office said 10 per cent of male pupils and 10 per cent of female pupils in Malawi had not attended school for 20 days or more, while in Zambia, there has been a dramatic decline in school attendance in six provinces.