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SADC - Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee


The VAC emergency food security assessments confirm the severity of the regional food crisis and provide compelling evidence that urgent action--beyond that of current levels--is required from national governments, regional bodies and the international community to avert a humanitarian disaster in the next seven months before the main harvest in April/May 2003.

National Governments: At national levels there are distinct actions, unique to each country, which governments can take to reduce the ultimate magnitude and impact of the impending crisis. While these are described in more detail in the country reports, in general these include creating policy environments that:
  • enable large volumes of required food to enter the country through a combination of the private sector, government programmes and humanitarian relief agencies;
  • enable unfettered transportation of cereals across international boundaries and within countries; and
  • avoid government action in the market place that could reduce private sector participation, such as high subsidies, price controls, etc.
Governments must also put into place strong and appropriate recovery and rehabilitation initiatives, including removal of longer-term policy constraints in order to address the underlying factors exacerbating the current food crisis, including chronic poverty, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and low productivity.

International Humanitarian Community: The international community has expressed deep concern about the crisis and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars of food and other assistance. The benefits of that assistance are clearly evident among the households that are receiving aid. This current round of assessments confirms both the urgency of needs as well as validates, indeed calls for increases in, the original appeals for food relief. For the six countries assessed, 1,000,000 MT of cereal food aid is required. To meet these needs, not only do the current humanitarian appeals need to be fully resourced (currently at around 25%), but they also need to be revised upward in line with the current levels of required assistance.

Targeting: Food assistance needs to be carefully targeted to the most vulnerable populations. The national VAC emergency food security assessment reports provide guidance to provide geographic targeting at the district level, specify temporal phases of need, and characterize the most vulnerable socio-economic groups. In the case that humanitarian appeals are not adequately resourced, the targeting criteria will allow for prioritisation of resources. The VAC assessments draw together the information required to make the most confident statements possible. That said, situations on the ground are complex and dynamic, requiring constant diligence and revision of targeting plans to reach those most in need.

Agricultural Inputs: For all of the countries, the main planting season is approaching, typically from late October to mid December. Although some programmes are in place, there is an urgent need for agricultural inputs, including seed and fertilizer. The national reports are more specific about the needs in each country. In contrast to food, which is in short supply at regional level, the critical seed issue is generally one of accessibility at the household level. Urgent consideration needs to be given to increasing farmer access to seed through both free input programmes and voucher schemes that allow farmers to access appropriate seed through private sector and government mechanisms.

Nutrition: Emergency food assistance should include a comprehensive food basket that combines cereals, pulses, oils, and other necessary commodities. Supplementary feeding is warranted for some of the most vulnerable groups. Vitamin A capsules should be considered to reduce child mortality and morbidity. Countries need to strengthen their capacity for screening, referral and management of severe malnutrition using the latest WHO guidelines.

Monitoring: Food security conditions at the community, national, and regional levels need to be closely monitored for the duration of the crisis. Complimenting the rolling assessments planned by the SADC VAC, key secondary data (such as market prices, rainfall and food imports) should be continuously analysed. At the community level, nutrition surveillance should be combined with data on dietary diversity, coping strategies, household purchasing power, and local availability of critical staple foods.

The Need to Act NOW

Urgent action is required to ensure that emergency food reaches those most in need and that emergency food stocks are in place within countries, especially for the severe months of December through March. Based on an understanding of current national and household food stocks, market prices, dietary intake, coping strategies, and other food security indicators, the assessment clearly indicates that if international assistance remains at its current levels, a humanitarian disaster may be unavoidable in months ahead. Implications of a disaster of this nature would be loss of livelihoods (having long term-negative effects), severe malnutrition, and potentially, death of those most at risk.
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