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Regional themes > Food security Last update: 2020-11-27  

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"Maintaining the Momentum" - Summary Note of the Regional Consultation on Humanitarian Assistance Needs in Southern Africa

Introduction and Background
One year ago, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee initiated a response to the crisis that was escalating in southern Africa. At its peak, an estimated 15 million people were affected by food shortages and left in need of assistance. Reacting quickly, the United Nations and its partners have been generally successful in mounting a large-scale emergency response that helped to avert a full-scale disaster and save the lives of millions.

A complex mix of economic, environmental, health and socio-political factors is still affecting millions in southern Africa. Food insecurity and poverty are clearly fuelling the HIV epidemic, with hunger forcing people into increasingly high risk behavior at the same time as lowering resistance to infection and contributing to the earlier onset of AIDS. Capacities and productivity in key sectors are depleted as workers fall ill or migrate. With improved weather conditions in much of the region, the situation this year has indeed improved significantly, and the number of people estimated to be affected has dropped from over 15 million to around 6.5 million. However, underlying sources of vulnerability need to be addressed before the region can say that it is no longer facing a crisis.

The Johannesburg "Maintaining the Momentum" meeting for stakeholders involved with the southern Africa crisis response was called to review the results of multi-sectoral assessments in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It provided a forum to ensure that a coherent approach is taken by the assistance community at a regional and country level to address emergency needs as well as to support key development objectives. It was also an opportunity to discuss the most recent report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, Mr. James Morris, which is entitled "Next Steps for Action in Southern Africa". The "Next Steps" paper, which was endorsed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) during its April 2003 plenary meeting, called for the international community to acknowledge that there is a need for a different kind of approach in the southern Africa response. The UN and its partners need to do more to save people's lives and their livelihoods in southern Africa before communities and households break down entirely.

The meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Judith Lewis, Regional Coordinator of the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, and Dr. Prega Ramsamy, Executive Secretary of SADC. The Special Envoy was represented by Ms. Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director of WFP.

In his opening address, Dr. Prega Ramsamy acknowledged the critical and catalytic role played by the Special Envoy in avoiding catastrophe among 15 million people in the region. He expressed his conviction that southern Africa would never again face a similar humanitarian crisis. He stressed the need to link emergency to long-term development and to have balanced funding for food and non-food assistance.

Key Objectives:

Specifically, the objectives of the stakeholders meeting were:

  1. To discuss the preliminary results of the assessments undertaken by the SADC-FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee in conjunction with the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessments and other related assessments
  2. To consider the outlook and predictions for the next twelve months
  3. To review the critical policy issues and approaches that can be taken to address vulnerability with specific focus on HIV/AIDS
  4. To review response capacities including resource mobilization and coordination
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