Country Specific Presentations on the changing vulnerability of communities to food insecurity and HIV / AIDS were given by representatives of each of the six countries. (The power-point presentation can be found on the accompanying CD-ROM or on www.sahims.net)
Mr. A. Timpson, UN OCHA Senior Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Zimbabwe
Although there has been a marginal improvement in cereal production over the past year, there has also been a deepening in the economic crisis in the country, and government capacity to deal effectively with the humanitarian crisis has been reduced. Furthermore, the HIV/AIDS situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming months and years, with the Government estimating 3,800 deaths per week from HIV/AIDS.
Food aid will be necessary beyond next year, but in order to maximize local production, there is an urgent need to provide seeds and inputs to vulnerable farmers no later than mid-October. In order to minimize the deterioration in the agricultural sector, there is also a need to promote diversification and replenish livestock.
Urgent interventions were identified in the health sector along with a need to increase immunization for children, to prevent the spread of epidemics such as malaria and tuberculosis and to support the health delivery system and surveillance system and to support those living with HIV/AIDS.
For the next twelve months, the goal of the UN and its partners is to prevent mass starvation and avoid an escalation in relief needs. More support for non-food sector programmes is necessary, especially in the health sectors, in addition to funding for food assistance.
Ms. Zahra Nuru, UN Resident Coordinator
Vulnerability in Malawi is closely related to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS (with 16 % of the adult population infected). It was stated that 220 persons are dying per day from the disease and 50%-80% of hospital beds are filled with HIV/AIDS patients. A weak health system, food insecurity, poverty and poorly funded water and sanitation projects contribute to vulnerability. Over the past several months, there has been a significant increase in the number of children in school, with 90% attendance rates in schools with school-feeding. There has also been an increase in the overall capacity of the government to coordinate humanitarian assistance, ensuring that aid goes to the most vulnerable.
Ambassador Chikuni of the Disaster Management Commission of the Government of Malawi stated that the way forward would be to develop contingency plans for all districts in the country. Experience has shown that those flood-affected areas that had contingency plans were able to better respond to the crisis on the ground.
Integrated "safety nets" programmes were identified as an important strategy to deal with longer term issues. These would be developed through a joint task force of the UN, government and NGOs. The delivery mechanism would continue to rely on NGOs, as they have proven to be very effective. The need for further monitoring and targeting of assistance was emphasized.
Ms. Olubanke King-Akerele, UN Resident Coordinator
The findings of the CFSAM and the VAC showed that there have been a dramatic improvement this year in the availability of food. Access to food has improved and maize prices have fallen in most zones. However, some pockets of severe food insecurity will remain due to poor access and chronic vulnerability. Although there is likely to be an overall surplus of food production in the country, the government is asking for assistance to purchase food from the north and move it to those areas in the south, where food security is still a problem.
It was recommended that there be a gradual phase-out of food assistance, except in identified areas and a replacement of emergency assistance with development activities/interventions.
Cross border initiatives in combating HIV/AIDS need to be looked at in more detail and there is a need to focus on irrigation, crop diversification, conservation farming, off farm income generating activities and agro-processing. Furthermore, there is a need to look more closely at the link between HIV/AIDS and food security. The absorption capacity of the Government to expend available funds was identified as an issue.
Ms. Elizabeth Lwanga, UN Resident Coordinator
National VAC Coordinator
The lower-middle income status of Swaziland complicates perception of the needs of the country in the eyes of donors. The per-capita income, however, shields the reality of the majority of people. 66% of people are still living below the poverty line. The number of people affected by the crisis is 204,300, representing almost 20% of the population.
In addition to food aid, Swaziland faces a number of challenges in dealing with food insecurity. Acute malnutrition is on the rise, especially in certain areas (for example, in Lubombo it rose from 0.9% in 2000 to 7.3% in 2002), and 28% of children are suffering from chronic malnutrition (stunting). High levels of HIV/AIDS is also of very serious concern.
The UN Country Team is planning an accelerated and integrated response to the humanitarian crisis and to development priorities. UN agencies are realigning their programmes to better respond to the crisis through multi-sectoral interventions, taking into account HIV/AIDS. It was stressed that there is a need to enhance surveillance on HIV/AIDS and its impact on the economy
Ms. Scholastica Sylvan Kimaryo, UN Resident Coordinator
National VAC Coordinator
Despite the overall positive synopsis of food availability in the region, several districts in Lesotho will need food and non-food assistance in the coming year, in particular the Sengu river valley and the southern lowlands.
It was recommended that the fight against HIV/AIDS should be scaled up, that nutritional support continues, and water sources for increased agricultural production be improved. It was stressed that there should be an intensification of partnerships between government, NGOs and the UN system to strengthen these initiatives.
Ms. Marylene Spezzati, UN Resident Coordinator
The main causes of vulnerability in Mozambique were identified as drought, floods, cyclones and combined effects of chronic poverty and HIV/AIDS. The food security situation has deteriorated in the south and central parts of the country. There has been a total crop failure in many parts of the south. High rates of acute malnutrition were reported in certain parts of the country.
It was stated that the UN, government and NGOs were pursuing an integrated response and that national contingency and sectoral plans would be further developed. The need for a national strategic plan to address HIV/AIDS was highlighted.
It was recognized that the results of the soon to be completed VA will enable the Government, UN and its partners to develop an integrated response consistent with the 'Next Steps' paper of the Special Envoy.