JOHANNESBURG, 7 June 2002
-- With figures just released for Mozambique and Zambia, the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme
(WFP) are renewing their warning of a severe food crisis
affecting close to 13 million people in southern Africa.
Added to the results of joint FAO/WFP
missions to Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, the figures
indicate that mass starvation is threatening the region with the
worst humanitarian disaster for a decade. But this time, huge
HIV/AIDS infection rates are exacerbating problems for people
who are already mired in chronic poverty.
The latest reports paint a particularly bleak picture
in Zambia, where 2.3 million people will need food assistance
before the next harvest in March 2003. It is estimated that
174,383 tonnes of food aid will be needed.
Along with neighbouring countries, Zambia has
experienced a second year of drought, especially in the south,
combined with lack of seed and fertilizer, cattle disease and
inadequate access to markets and health services. This is making
life especially difficult for poor households in Southern
Province and parts of Central, Eastern and Western Province.
"All the classic signs of acute
social stress are evident in Zambia," the report
states. "People are turning to desperate measures
including eating potentially poisonous wild foods, stealing
crops and prostitution to get enough for their families to
According to the joint
assessment report for Mozambique, severe dry weather in some
central and southern provinces have placed 355,000 people in
immediate need of food aid, rising to 515,000 after September,
when the meager harvest is consumed. With 70 per cent of the
country's population living in severe poverty, many people
are still reeling from the dramatic floods of 2000 and 2001.
Ironically, hard hit areas of Mozambique cannot benefit from
increased maize production in some northern and central
provinces because of high internal transport costs.
Furthermore, shortages in neighbouring countries have pushed
food prices beyond the reach of a significant number of the
rural poor. The report estimates that 120,000 tonnes of maize
will need to be imported - of which 50,000 tonnes will be food
Across all six countries, the
FAO/WFP missions assessed the outcome of the 2001/02 main maize
harvest, the region's staple food, plus other food crops.
They also forecast the 2002/03 winter crop production in order
to determine each country's food import requirements,
including food aid needs, for the next 12 months. It is
estimated that a total of nearly four million tonnes of food
must be imported to meet the minimum food needs of the six
people requiring assistance are expected to increase as
remaining food stocks are consumed. For example, in Zimbabwe,
the number of people already needing food aid from now until
August is 5.2 million, rising to over 6 million early next year.
The population in need in Malawi now stands at 545,000 rising to
3.2 million by the end of the year. The figure of those people
needing food aid rises to 2.3 million in Zambia: to 515,000 in
Mozambique; to 444,800 in Lesotho; and to 231,000 in Swaziland.
The two Rome-based UN agencies today
reiterated the need for donor governments worldwide to respond
quickly and generously with food aid donations to avoid
widespread hunger from developing into a humanitarian