Mozambique: UN agency to buy food locally for flood victims to help economy

Mozambique: UN agency to buy food locally for flood victims to help economy

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking vital cash donations to buy locally as much food as possible for 120,000 Mozambican flood victims to help the domestic economy, with the southern African country threatened by a new cyclone later this week.

“Such purchases underpin local markets, boost the economy and help to secure jobs, which can stimulate economic growth,” WFP Southern Africa Director Amir Abdulla said today in Johannesburg, in neighbouring South Africa. “We generally prefer to buy food locally if it’s available, cost competitive and purchases do not drive up prices.”

The UN system in Mozambique is expected to launch an international appeal in the coming days to fund a large humanitarian relief operation, a significant portion of which will involve food aid that WFP would prefer to procure locally. The agency is working with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Government to maximize local purchases. WFP spent a record $7.4 million on local purchases in Mozambique in 2006.

WFP has so far distributed food to some 33,500 flood victims in areas downstream from Mutarara in the Zambezi River Basin and around Quelimane. While flood waters in central Mozambique have started receding in the last few days, more rainfall is expected across southern Africa, which could cause greater distress to already stricken communities as well as those that have so far narrowly escaped.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided water and sanitation supplies, including plastic sheets, chlorine, water tanks and latrine slabs.

Mozambique’s national disaster relief agency has estimated that up to 285,000 people will be affected by flooding before this rainy season finishes around the end of March. Water levels in much of central Mozambique are already higher than at any time since March 2001, and with the rains expected to continue for another month, officials remain extremely concerned about the welfare of people in low-lying areas.

Tropical storm Favio, currently 200 kilometres south of Madagascar, is forecast to move to the west and gain intensity in the Mozambique Channel, and there was a probability that it will hit the southern Mozambican coast as a cyclone on Thursday, with increasing rainfall.

The weather had been substantially drier in southern Mozambique leading to drought conditions but funding for WFP’s programmes there for people affected by HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children, remains critically short. The agency currently needs $12 million to buy food for up to 900,000 people through the end of 2007.

“Mozambique battles floods, drought and cyclones at the same time of the year, nearly every year, which is the why the international community cannot afford to neglect any one area of assistance,” Mr. Abdulla said. “Food aid is an extremely quick response to these types of crises and has proven to be very effective time and time again.”

Over the last six years, WFP has spent more than $20 million in Mozambique buying close to 100,000 metric tons of food, including maize, maize meal and corn-soya blend, for people affected by HIV/AIDS and food insecurity caused by crop failure and natural disasters.

WFP is also currently monitoring flooding in other regions of southern Africa. There are floods in the north of Namibia, and the east and west of Zambia. In Madagascar, tropical storm Clovis flooded a number of regions, displacing up to 31,000 people. WFP and its partners hoped to distribute more than 450 tonnes of food to the victims there.