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United Nations

Southern African Humanitarian Crisis update

United Nations Regional Inter-Agency Cooperation Support Office (UN RIACSO)

August 2005

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Millions will need help to survive the lean season
Millions will need help to survive the lean season

The recent SADC Vulnerability Assessments and FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM) have confirmed that the region is entering another acute phase of a chronic emergency, as more than ten million people in the region are at risk of food insecurity through to April 2006. In view of the recurrent character of the crisis, stakeholders have acknowledged the need for the region to move away from short-term emergency responses and engage in longer-term development interventions under the framework of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the Dar-Es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security. This approach was endorsed by the regional stakeholder meeting convened on 7-8 July 2005 by SADC and the UN. It is considered more appropriate to address chronic conditions of poverty, erratic weather and HIV/AIDS, which are among the main driving forces behind increasing levels of vulnerability in the region. Consistent with this approach, the humanitarian community reiterated its plan to address the current crisis through the Inter-Agency Regional Humanitarian Strategic Framework for Southern Africa, which presents a unified understanding of how short term needs can best be addressed to serve the longer-term needs in the region, and provides a guide for shaping individual agencies’ initiatives and nationally led efforts to address the crisis within a longer term perspective.

Agencies’ Initiatives

WFP is meeting increased food needs resulting from crop failure through an expansion of the ongoing Regional Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations (PRRO). The agency plans to distribute about 516,000 tonnes of food aid between October 2005 and March 2006, with the number of beneficiaries of WFP food aid interventions rising to approximately 8.5 million people during the peak period in January - March 2006. Despite a recent USD 48.6 million aid package from the US for the region, USD 9.7 million from the Netherlands, USD 0.5 million from the Government of Japan, and USD 4.8 million from the EC, WFP still requires USD 187 million to run its programs through to the end of the next lean season in March/April 2006. Although moving beyond short-term responses to hunger and developing alternative interventions to food aid are increasingly recognised as essential to addressing the crisis effectively, immediate donations are needed if WFP is to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people during the upcoming hunger period.

Within FAO’s Programme Framework for Emergency and Rehabilitation, a number of proposals have been developed to support small-scale farmers in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The main focus of these activities is to ensure that vulnerable farmers have access to adequate quantities of livelihood and agricultural inputs in time for the next rainy season, which should start in October 2005. They also look at developing small-scale irrigation, promoting conservation agriculture, supporting livestock production, establishing gardens at nutritional rehabilitation units, and supporting livelihood opportunities for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). FAO is still short of USD 16 million to meet the financial requirements of these activities.

In order to support resource mobilisation efforts for WFP in the region, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to 27 Heads of State as well as the EC, and the African Development Bank in early August to raise alarm at the serious humanitarian situation in southern Africa.

National Efforts

In each country, the international humanitarian community is tailoring interventions to country-specific needs, in line with the Regional Humanitarian Strategic Framework. For example, in Mozambique, the UN Country Team is implementing an inter-agency plan to complement the government’s interventions to mitigate food insecurity. The strategy, which draws from the annual Inter-Agency Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, is multi-sectoral and includes activities, which are rolled into and consistent with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and National Development Plan. In Malawi, the UN Country Team has prepared a funding document outlining a two-pronged strategy to address the unprecedented levels of food insecurity. The first prong of the strategy aims to address the immediate consequences of the food crisis, while the second prong complements the government’s plan to ensure small-scale farmers have access to agricultural inputs for the upcoming planting season and avert another food crisis next year.

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