February 2003, Rome -- An appeal for $15 million to
help more than half a million vulnerable households in southern
Africa was announced today by the UN Food and Agriculture
The region has been
struggling with a severe food and health crisis that continues
to threaten as many as 15 million people.
The FAO appeal follows assessment missions to southern
Africa in December and January. The missions evaluated the
progress of humanitarian assistance in the region.
They reported that the region's severe
humanitarian crisis can be expected to worsen in the coming
months because of poor weather and the increasingly destructive
impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on agricultural productivity.
FAO made the appeal to prevent further loss
of life and to support existing efforts that address the
underlying causes of deepening poverty.
July 2002, FAO appealed for $25 million to respond to the
southern African crisis. More than $10 million in contributions
was received, coming from the European Union, Ireland, the
Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United
FAO used the contributions to fund
what it describes as "successful small-scale
interventions" that prove southern Africans have the
ability to cope with and conquer the humanitarian crisis that
faces them when assistance is provided.
However, says Anne M. Bauer, Director for FAO's
Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation, "This
emergency is unlike any other humanitarian crisis. The causes
are complex and merit a sustained and comprehensive package of
relief and recovery efforts that focus on the most vulnerable
According to FAO, the
southern Africa food crisis is the result of drought, chronic
poverty, land degradation and HIV/AIDS. It is the prevalence of
HIV/AIDS that is proving to be the most challenging cause of the
crisis in southern Africa today, according to FAO.
"HIV/AIDS causes and exacerbates food
insecurity in a number of ways. Illness and death of productive
household members leave families unable to farm, indebted with
high medical and funeral costs, and little means to earn extra
cash to buy food and pay school fees," says a UN report
families in situations of extreme vulnerability, which forces
people, particularly women, to adopt risky behaviour just to put
enough food on the table - further fuelling the spread of the
The up-dated appeal will
raise funds for projects that focus assistance on female-headed
households and HIV/AIDS affected families.
The projects, in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,
Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, aim to improve skills and
increase the supply of agricultural inputs, such as seeds,
hand-tools and fertilizer, while promoting crop diversity,
labour saving technologies and resistance to drought.
The projects will also replenish small
livestock and improve nutrition. According to Bauer,
"This comprehensive package of relief and recovery
efforts will improve the self-reliance of agricultural families
and reduce their vulnerability and dependence on food
Information Officer, FAO
+(39) 06 570