Southern Africa: More food aid needed
"We fully recognise that the solution to the crisis will ultimately rely on long-term planning and investment strategies, but in the short term food aid is urgently required," she told IRIN while on a fact-finding visit to Malawi this week.
Although donors had responded well, the region still needed half of the US $611 million requested to help ease the food crisis, and relieve serious health and social challenges. "We're dealing with a region that has been hit by HIV/AIDS and some countries have serious unemployment and malnutrition," she said.
"We've been very encouraged by the determination of governments in the region to deal with the crisis, and we approve very much of the response from the donors so far. [However] we need to increase programmes of supplementary feeding of infants and pre-school age groups, as any loss of nutrition at this stage in the growth cycle will have a lifetime's effect on their mental and physical development," McAskie said.
UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the region James Morris, who was leading the two-week assessment mission, said he was confident famine would be averted in the six countries at risk - Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.
"We have probably half of what we need. We have some idea where the rest will come from. Our people are working very hard," he said. "But I won't be satisfied until we reach our goal, and I think in the next few weeks, we'll get there. I know that the people are taking us very seriously. They know that people in six countries are at risk of the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world."
The gravity of the situation for up to three million Malawians was illustrated on a visit to a village in the Dedza area, south of the capital Lilongwe, where people had gathered to receive food aid.
Among them were teenagers, looking far younger than their actual age, due to stunting caused by years of poor nutrition.
Thirteen-year-old Rhoda Black was there to collect a 50 kg food ration for her disabled mother. "My mother is blind. I guide her each time she wants to walk," she said.
The presence of so many women and over 100 children at the centre worried Olivia Yambi, the regional nutrition advisor for the UN Children's Fund. "I see a lot of girls who should be at school," she noted.
[This Item is Delivered to the English Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2002
A selection of IRIN reports are posted on ReliefWeb. Find more IRIN news and analysis at http://www.irinnews.org
Une sélection d'articles d'IRIN sont publiés sur ReliefWeb. Trouvez d'autres articles et analyses d'IRIN sur http://www.irinnews.org
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. Refer to the IRIN copyright page for conditions of use.
Cet article ne reflète pas nécessairement les vues des Nations Unies. Voir IRIN droits d'auteur pour les conditions d'utilisation.