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Southern Africa: Food Emergency Shortfall
Oct 18, 2005 (051018)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
With attention diverted and disaster fatigue accentuated by
response to the hurricanes in North America, the UN's World Food
Programme (WFP) as well as private agencies are finding responses
slow to the earthquake in South Asia and to food crises in Africa.
The WFP appeal for Niger, which briefly hit world headlines in
July, has still only raised $36 million of its $58 million target;
the appeal for 12 million people in Southern Africa has only raised
$245 million out of an estimated $622 million needed.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release from the World
Food Programme on the hunger crisis in Southern Africa, news
reports from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
(IRIN) on the food situation in Malawi and on the most recent South
Africa contribution to the World Food Programme, and an update from
the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS) on the food
situation in Zimbabwe.
For more and regularly updated information, see the web sites of
the World Food Programme (http://www.wfp.org), ReliefWeb
(http://www.reliefweb.int) and FEWS (http://www.fews.net). In
addition to alerts, FEWS features a regular two-page executive
summary of threats to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Critical window closing for 12 million in southern Africa
World Food Program
Lilongwe, Malawi, 13 October 2005 - A top WFP official has warned
that a critical window is closing fast for 12 million people across
southern Africa to receive urgent help from the international
community - including five million people in Malawi facing the
toughest 'hunger season' in more than a decade.
WFP Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu, a prominent South
African, said in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe that WFP was
racing against time to ensure sufficient food aid is delivered to
six worst-affected southern African countries, including Malawi, to
prevent mass suffering before next April.
"It is deplorable that enough donations only come in when images of
emaciated African children starving in large numbers start
appearing on television screens around the world." said Sisulu.
"Hunger doesn't have to be inevitable in Africa but once food needs
start to peak, it will be too late for many of the weakest,
especially children, and the cost of saving lives will escalate
Sisulu arrived in Lilongwe on Tuesday for a four-day visit for
talks with the government and to check on WFP's operations in
Malawi, just as the organisation is facing a massive shortfall in
contributions to run critical feeding programmes.
"Malawi is not a repeat of Niger - yet. There is still a chance to
help the most vulnerable," Sisulu said.
"If we all act now, there is no reason why the situation should
deteriorate further. But the world should be under no illusion, the
clock is ticking and the outlook is bleak. We need money pledged
now to feed the hungriest in a few months' time."
Imminent food crisis
For Malawi, WFP still needs US$76 million to feed up to 2.9 million
people before the next harvest in April/May 2006. Regionally, WFP
requires US$185 million to feed up to 9.2 million hungry people in
Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Over the past six months, WFP and other aid agencies have warned of
an imminent food crisis in Malawi and the rest of southern Africa.
So far, the biggest single donor to WFP in Malawi is the
Government, which received significant support from Britain and the
European Commission. However, no new contributions have been
received since September 22.
Food aid on the ground
It can take up to six months for donor pledges to WFP to appear as
food aid on the ground in southern Africa.
The annual hunger season in Malawi, for instance, usually starts in
December and peaks in January/February before the new maize harvest
in March/April, but this year it has started several months earlier
and rising maize prices are already pushing vulnerable populations
to the brink. Supplies of cooking oil and pulses are particularly
WFP also needs to preposition three months of food supplies as some
southern areas in Malawi are often completely cut off for weeks at
a time once the rainy season starts in November. This makes the
need for cash contributions to buy food locally even more critical.
Sisulu urged all donors "to open their hearts at this most critical
time" as well as honour pledges made in the last few months. "The
time to step up the humanitarian response is now, but this can't be
achieved without international support," Sisulu said.
Spiralling maize prices in Malawi months before the hunger season
point to food shortages in the first quarter of 2006 being worse
than 2002, when drought put millions of people at risk of dying.
WFP fed 2.9 million people across Malawi in 2002. This year, WFP is
striving to feed a similar number of people, but in just seven
districts in the worst-affected south.
In addition, the United Kingdom's Department for International
Development and the Government of Malawi are distributing food
rations through vouchers in the South, Central and Northern
The voucher scheme should eventually reach up to 2.2 million people
in 16 districts. The number targeted by the scheme in October is
almost 460,000 people.
WFP is currently feeding more than 1.2 million people in the south
as well as providing food to malnourished children and their
mothers at government-run Nutrition Rehabilitation Units across the
country. It also supports people with HIV/AIDS and development
projects such as irrigation schemes.
One meal or less
Hundreds of hungry people not registered for food assistance
through Village Relief Committees are turning up at WFP food
distribution points. Many say they are eating one meal or less per
day and some are resorting to eating wild foods that have little
nutritional value, and in some cases are very toxic and can cause
death if not properly prepared.
The number of malnourished children under the age of five arriving
in Nutrition Rehabilitation Units (NRUs) across Malawi is
increasing. In August, the NRU admission rate rose by 29 percent
across the country as compared to the same period in 2004.
Combination of problems
The food shortage in Malawi is caused by a combination of problems
- the poorest maize harvest since 1994
- erratic weather
- shortages of seeds and fertilisers at the critical planting time
- high prices for available food
- chronic poverty (at least 60 percent of Malawians live below the
- the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture
- over reliance on rain-fed crops, particularly maize
- the fact that only two percent of arable land is irrigated and
most of this is linked to commercial farms for sugar cane, tobacco,
HIV/AIDS is a major factor in limiting people's ability to grow
food. Many families are forced to spend meagre resources on
medicine or funerals for those affected by the virus, leaving
nothing to buy seeds and fertiliser at the most critical planting
Malawi has an average adult HIV prevalence rate of 14.4%. Pockets
in the country are considerably higher.
Malawi, like the rest of southern Africa, is beset by a rising
number of orphans due to HIV/AIDS, placing a heavy burden on
families struggling to cope with food shortages. Even after good
harvests, many of the poorest families have difficulties feeding
Malawi: Mutharika declares disaster as food crisis deepens
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Networks
[This material is from IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information
service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nations or its agencies.]
Johannesburg, 17 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Malawi's worsening food crisis
has been seized on by opponents of President Bingu wa Mutharika,
intent on forcing him out of office.
Apparently bowing to opposition pressure, Mutharika on Saturday
declared a state of disaster in all 28 districts of Malawi in
response to widespread food shortages - an indication that the food
crisis had become politicised, said Rafiq Hajat of the
Blantyre-based Institute for Policy Interaction.
Hajat noted that the declaration came several weeks after the UN
launched its US $88 million Flash Appeal for Malawi and was
tantamount to "closing the stable door after the horse has already
"It's basically long overdue - some of us in civil society have
been raising the alarm over the impending food crisis since
December 2004 and January this year. The crisis was created by a
combination of factors, such as the non-delivery of subsidised
fertiliser last year and the erratic rainfall - it did not take a
rocket scientist to figure out that we were going to face a food
crisis this year," Hajat commented.
Aid workers told IRIN the Flash Appeal had been out since the end
of August and it was unlikely that a state of disaster would
deliver significant new levels of funding.
According to the Financial Tracking System of the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, $28 million had so far been
received towards the $88 million Malawi appeal.
Mutharika has been fighting for his political survival since June,
with the food crisis seemingly overshadowed as opposition parties
forged ahead with plans to impeach him.
The fight has pitted Mutharika against former president of the
country and now chairman of the United Democratic Front (UDF),
Bakili Muluzi, with the UDF proposing an impeachment motion after
Mutharika left the party which had sponsored him in the national
On paper the opposition parties form the largest bloc in
parliament, though Mutharika formed his own political organisation,
the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), it does not have any seats.
Earlier this month, British High Commissioner to Malawi David
Pearey said the ongoing political crisis was distracting government
and had caused parliament to lose focus amid a worsening food
crisis. He warned that the political imbroglio could also
jeopardise foreign development assistance.
"Certain quarters seem hell-bent on self-destruction. It's the old
African adage: 'When the elephants fight the grass gets trampled
underfoot'," Hajat remarked.
The World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman in Malawi, Antonella
D'Aprile, said the government - with donor backing - was already
distributing food aid in the central and northern parts of the
country, alongside WFP's efforts in the worst-affected southern
"The situation is, however, complex and we've been monitoring the
maize price over the past six months, and we knew something big was
coming [in terms of needs]," she said.
The volume of food aid required was "much higher now, and we are
now looking at five million people in need [of food aid]". Earlier
estimates had put the number at 4.2 million.
South Africa boosts aid to region
Johannesburg, 3 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - South Africa has announced a R140
million (US $22 million) donation to the UN World Food Programme
(WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to alleviate
food shortages in Southern Africa.
The Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs said in a statement
that the government had agreed "to provide humanitarian food aid
assistance and to support the rehabilitation of agricultural
production in seven countries in the region ... Lesotho, Malawi,
Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe".
"It [the government] has agreed in principle to make R140 million
available this year, with the main focus on rehabilitation of
agricultural productivity, and in proportion to the identified
respective country needs," the statement noted.
Of the total donation, 70 percent - R98 million ($15.4 million) -
would be used to assist households to become agriculturally
productive again. Aid agencies have blamed drought, a shortage of
seeds and fertilisers and weakened capacity due to HIV/AIDS as the
main factors responsible for the agricultural decline in Southern
Twenty-five percent of the total donation - R35 million ($5.5
million) - would be allocated to direct food relief through WFP,
while the remaining five percent - R7 million ($1.1 million)- would
be used to support the regional early warning system.
"The South African donation comes at a time when nearly 9.2 million
people require emergency food aid in Southern Africa. This is the
third major South African donation to WFP, and clearly shows the
government's support for the people of the region," WFP spokesman
Mike Huggins told IRIN.
The details and timing of the assistance were still to be finalised
in collaboration with WFP and FAO, but the South African government
has stipulated "that procurement in terms of this donation will be
done within South Africa and the region".
In 2002/03 South Africa donated R170 million ($26.7 million) to WFP
for food aid in the region, followed by a R100 million ($15.7
million) in 2003/04 for both food aid and agricultural
Zimbabwe Food Security Emergency 12 Oct 2005 - Staple foods
limited, cost of living rising
Limited Staple Food Availability and High Cost of Living Seriously
Constrain Food Security
Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET)
[For more information, including the figures accompanying this
text, see the FEWS NET Zimbabwe Country Center at:
http://www.fews.net/zimbabwe The Famine Early Warning Systems
Network is an USAID activity managed by Chemonics International
Inc. Contact us at email@example.com.]
The levels of food insecurity continue to worsen for both urban and
rural populations, due to the reduced availability of staple
cereals and the ever rising cost of living.
Household food stocks are running low as the hunger season
(September - January) is starting. More people are being forced to
look for maize and maize meal on the market. While tremendous
effort is being made by the government to import food into the
country to cover the production gap, officially estimated at about
1.2 million MT of maize, in-country grain distribution problems
arising from shortages of fuel and trucks are restricting the
amount of grain available on the market, particularly in the remote
parts of the country. At current importation rates, the government
will manage to import about 80 percent of its targeted maize
imports of 1.2 million MT. If the pledges from government
cooperating partners to bring 300,000 MT of grain into the country
in the current marketing year materialize, the national deficit
will be closed.
Since the harvesting period (around May), informal maize trade
prices have increased significantly in response to both inflation
and reduced availability. The traditionally grain deficit southern
districts had the highest informal market maize price increases.
Here, maize prices had gone up by at least 50 percent by August
2005. Maize availability in these areas is at critical levels; even
people with money are finding it difficult to buy maize or maize
meal. Private traders and local shops in these areas are now taking
advantage of the situation and asking for between Z$4,400 and
Z$5,600/kg for maize grain. On the other hand, maize price
increases were as low as 25 percent in the north central districts
of Mashonaland provinces and Manicaland were local production was
the dominant source of maize grain. Farmer to farmer to maize
transactions were taking place at between Z$2,200 and Z$2800/kg in
these areas (Figure 1b).
The hyper inflation charactering the Zimbabwean economy continues
to push the cost of living beyond the reach of most households. The
gains that had been made in the fight against inflation throughout
2004 and the first quarter of 2005 continue to be reversed. The
Central Statistical Office (CSO) measured an annual rate of
inflation that stood at the unprecedented level of 623 percent in
January 2004, but had gone down to 124 percent in March 2005. Since
then inflation has risen sharply to 360 percent in September 2005.
In July alone general prices levels leapt by a massive 47 percent.
Though the month on month inflation for August went down to 8.3
percent, the September rate shot up to 33.3 percent as result of
the official depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar against major
currencies, fuel price hikes and increases in value added tax take
in August and September. The International Monetary Fund's 2005
economic review for Zimbabwe forecast annual inflation rate of 400
percent by December 2005. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ)
monitored monthly food and non-food basket for low-income urban
households of six stood at Z$5,401,440 in July 2005, marking an
increase of 27 percent from June 2005 level of Z$4,247,808. By mid
August 2005 the cost of the same basket had moved up by about 13.5
percent to reach the record high level of Z$6,129,900. At the end
of September the cost of the CCZ basket had soured to Z$9.6million.
Not only do consumers have to contend with exorbitant prices of
basic commodities and services but they also have to grapple with
rampant shortages of basic food stuffs such as salt, sugar, cooking
oil and flour.
Given all these challenges the number of food insecure people is
already substantially higher than the Zimbabwe Vulnerability
Assessment Committee's (ZimVAC) estimate of 1.5 million food
insecure rural people from July to September 2005. The urgent need
to update the ZimVac projections of food insecure people can,
therefore, not be overemphasized as affected populations require
immediate food assistance to survive the hunger season.
Poor preparations for the 2005/06 Agricultural season lend little
confidence to Zimbabwe's prospects for coming out of the current
food security crisis in the next marketing year.
Climate experts predict that Zimbabwe's cereal crop producing
region has greater chances of good rainfall in the 2005/06 cropping
season. However, Zimbabwean farmers may not be able to take
advantage of the potentially good rainfall season because of
serious shortages of critical inputs. Maize seed, fertilizers, fuel
and spare parts for farm machinery are likely to be in serious
short supply in the 2005/06 cropping season. Seed companies in
Zimbabwe estimate that as of August 2005, they held in stock a
total of 26,000 MT of maize seed. Prior to 2000, Zimbabwe used to
use about 36,000 MT of maize seed and produce enough to feed the
nation and export some maize to other countries. Assuming national
maize yields will approximate those attained by communal farmers in
the 1990s and the national maize grain requirements are about 2
million MT, close to 56,000 MT of maize seed will be required in
the 2005/06 agricultural season. The fertilizer companies told the
a parliamentary committee in early August that they had no
fertilizer stocks, and hardily any production of the commodity was
taking place because of lack of foreign currency to import the
required raw materials. In the 1990s Zimbabwean farmers would use
an average of about 400,000 MT of fertilizers, about 40 percent of
which was used for the maize crop. National fertilizer production
capacity cannot meet this demand in the time left even if adequate
foreign currency is made available to import the critical inputs.
Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that adequate foreign currency
to import the required fertilizers could be secured if none could
be availed for the raw materials.
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