Calling crisis ‘incredibly serious,’ UN seeks urgent food aid for southern Africa

26 September 2003

Declaring the situation “incredibly serious," the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that millions of people in southern Africa will face massive food shortages as early as next month due to major funding shortfalls, particularly in Zimbabwe and Mozambique where food needs are greatest.

Two months ago, WFP appealed for $308 million to fund some 540,000 tons of food, enough to feed 6.5 million people until June of next year in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi, but despite repeated appeals it has received only 24 per cent, leaving a shortfall of $235 million.

"The situation is incredibly serious," WFP Executive Director and Special Envoy for Southern Africa James T. Morris said. "In Mozambique, rations for hundreds of thousands of people may have to be cut, or they may get nothing at all unless our appeal receives an immediate cash injection. It's already too late for food aid to arrive from abroad to meet needs in October and November."

Compounding the food shortages in southern Africa is the HIV/AIDS crisis. The region has the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world and there has been an alarming increase in the number of households headed by children, the chronically ill and grandparents. Because productivity in the agricultural sector is especially hard hit by the pandemic, food shortages and chronic poverty are likely to persist.

"HIV/AIDS and food shortages go hand in hand in this region," said Mike Sackett, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa. "The best way of supporting people affected by the virus is to ensure they are well nourished, but clearly this will not be the case for many people over the coming months unless there's an immediate and sustained response from donors."

Given the current funding level, the entire region is expected to experience food pipeline breaks by early next year, which will coincide with the lean season when the number of beneficiaries will be highest and the general food deficit greatest.

WFP has been carrying out emergency feeding in the region since 2001. The peak of operations was reached last year when 10.2 million people received WFP food aid.


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