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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

7. Conclusions of the Meeting:
  • Food production will increase significantly this year but it will be uneven between countries and even within countries. Structural problems in the agricultural sector need to be addressed now, including market reforms, improving extension services, and reviewing policies. Governments can assist in particular by promoting trade within and across the region.

  • Zimbabwe represents the most alarming situation in the region. Poor rainfall combined with a problematic economic situation means that about half of the vulnerable people in the region can be found in that country. Meeting humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe will remain a priority this year, but a renewed effort, taking into account the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, will be needed to improve the country's food security environment for the medium to long term.

  • The recovery from last year is partial and fragile. While food availability in the region will improve, accessibility remains a major concern for communities and families who have not yet recovered. Essentially, there is a 'carryover' of vulnerability from last year to this year, in families that used negative coping strategies for their survival and have not yet managed to fully re-establish their assets.

  • Food assistance will continue to be necessary this year, (and perhaps beyond 2004 in some countries or areas), but should be increasingly targeted to the most vulnerable. Wherever possible, local/regional production should be used for food aid rather than importing, in order to avoid distortion in local markets and to encourage local production.

  • Furthering recovery for next year will require immediate actions to ensure necessary seeds and other agricultural inputs for households that do not have the means to purchase them.

  • Immediate actions need to be taken in order to ensure longer-term results, and should be undertaken in conjunction with ongoing emergency assistance. Government, UN, SADC, NGOs and donors need to 'run the marathon together' - to undertake sustained interventions that provide immediate support for vulnerable people, as well as make longer-term investments in the future of the countries of the region (eg. education, health, etc.)

  • HIV/AIDS information gathered in the context of vulnerability assessments is chilling. The epidemic has led to "compounded vulnerability" in affected households, communities and societies. Assistance programming (including safety nets) needs to be directed to new affected groups such as orphans, adolescent girls, etc. as they struggle to cope with this reality.

  • Donors responded favorable to last year's appeal, but there were imbalances between sectors. Comprehensive and effective assistance will depend on an integrated, multi-sectoral response. The water and sanitation sector as well as the health sector are both in urgent need of increased funding.

  • There is clearly a need to continue to strengthen the assessment process. The VAC has been an invaluable tool for the UN, Governments, SADC, NGOs, and donors to reach a common understanding about the magnitude and nature of vulnerability in the region. Indeed, it provides a model of convergence for stakeholders.

  • SADC has shown leadership in the past year on issues such as vulnerability assessment, GMOs, and gender. SADC's efforts in putting in place a framework for longer-term solutions to a number of the challenges facing the region should be supported.

  • A nutritional portrait of southern Africa reveals a number of worrisome trends. While Global Acute Malnutrition rates remained relatively low over the last year, there is a tendency towards deterioration in underweight in under 5 years old children from the mid 1990's through the crisis period. While food aid may have been effective in combating malnutrition, there is urgent need to address other non-food determinants of malnutrition such as access to care and health.

  • Across the region, although global acute malnutrition levels are within an acceptable range, the levels of severe malnutrition are of great concern. The caseload of children suffering from severe malnutrition raises the question of institutional community-based capacity to address their immediate and urgent needs.

  • Areas with high HIV/AIDS prevalence do not show the highest malnutrition at the present time. However, areas with high HIV/AIDS prevalence show the greatest deterioration in nutritional status over the crisis period and also overlap with areas of highest food insecurity, child-headed households and poor health status. Moreover, Crude Mortality Rates have reached emergency levels in a number of places, and a breakdown of crude mortality by age shows that deaths among the working age population account for almost half of all deaths.

  • A view of nutritional status among orphans shows that stunting and underweight trends are significantly higher than in children with both parents.

  • Much work remains to be done in order to have a clearer picture of nutritional trends in southern Africa and the inter-relationship between nutrition, HIV/AIDS, food security, health services and care.

  • HIV/AIDS programming has been improved by joint action at the country level, and the added value of regional coordination. Data collection is also crucial for targeting assistance.

  • The situation in southern Africa cannot be characterized by a linear 'relief to development' pattern. Rather, there is a necessity to conduct emergency and longer-term programming simultaneously. Flexible and coordinated approaches have proven effective in carrying out this kind of work, embodied by arrangements such as the NGO consortium in Malawi, the C-SAFE network, and RIACSO.

  • The value of the commercial sector in alleviating food shortages is clear. In general, those countries that have adopted less restrictive trade policies have been better able to meet their overall food requirements.

  • There has been a strong endorsement of the new CAP process (2003-2004) and of the RIACSO mechanism as a whole. In fact, the RIACSO model of coordination between UN agencies, SADC, NGOs and donors can be seen as a success and should be continued. The work of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa was commended for raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS dimension of the crisis and bringing greater cohesion to programming in the region.

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