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Africa: Update on the food crisis threatening over 30 million people in Southern and East Africa

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Given the scale of the crisis in Africa, provisional estimates from the World Food Programme have raised concerns over being able to meet increased food aid needs in 2003.
FOOD SECURITY CRISIS IN AFRICA - February 2003

This paper takes up from the Food Security Crisis in Africa paper prepared by Concern in November 2002 and may be read in conjunction with that. It focuses attention primarily on two regions - East and Southern Africa, but there are growing concerns about some areas of West Africa and the Greater Horn.

Numbers affected for the period January to December 2003:

Country/Region
People in need of food aid
Food aid needs - MTs
Angola
2,000,000
500,000
Eritrea
2,300,000
400,000
Ethiopia
11,300,000 - 14,000,000
1,500,000 - 2,500,000
Southern Africa*
13,490,000
995,000
Sudan
2,000,000
300,000
Total 31,090,000 - 33,790,000 3,695,000 - 4,695,000

* The SADC Regional Food Security Assessment, December 2002 - which does not cover Angola -estimated the following level of needs for the period between December 2002 and March 2003 in the four southern African countries in which Concern has a presence as follows:

Country
People requiring
food aid
% of population
MTs of food aid
needed
Malawi
3,300,000
29
237,000
Mozambique
590,000
3
48,000
Zambia
2,900,000
26
224,000
Zimbabwe
6,700,000
49
486,000
Total
13,490,000
995,000

Given the scale of the crisis in Africa, provisional estimates from the World Food Programme have raised concerns over being able to meet increased food aid needs in 2003. The total food aid figure required by WFP in 2003 is currently estimated to be in the region of between five and six million tonnes - an increase of 60% on the 4.4 million MTs needed in 2002.

While the WFP EMOP (Emergency Operation - the basic planning document used by WFP in planning a response to identified needs in a country) for the period up to the end of March 2003 have been substantially funded (estimates vary but are in the order of 75 to 80%), WFP have estimated that they will need $2.4 billion in 2003 to meet projected needs - and this does not take into account 'unforeseen emergencies'. They estimate that food requirements for Africa in 2003 will be $1.8 billion - approximately what WFP received for the entire world in 2002.

These huge quantities will be required in the face of below average maize and wheat production in North America and Australia and rising global prices. US wheat prices are up 50% from September last year. The impact of high prices will be to reduce the buying power of emergency budgets, both by countries facing food insecurity and donors who purchase cereals for emergency distribution. Also, countries faced with import requirements may expect domestic food price rises, in turn reducing food access for low-income consumers and placing further pressure on emergency programmes.

Using the broadly indicative crop calendars generated by FAO, it is expected that harvests of the principle crops in the countries covered by this report will occur as follows:

Country
Crop
Harvest
Angola
Maize
March/April
Eritrea
Wheat
mid-November/December
Maize
November/mid-December
Ethiopia*
Wheat
November/December
Maize
October/mid-December
Malawi
Maize
mid-April/mid-June
South Sudan
Sorghum
August/September
Uganda (northern
Millet
September/October
areas only)
Maize
August/October
Zambia
Maize
mid-April/mid-June
Zimbabwe
Maize
May/June

* The information for Ethiopia is based only on the meher harvest. The belg harvest, which meets the needs of approximately 20% of the population, occurs in May/June but is less reliable than the meher.

It is evident from this table that while Southern Africa will receive a harvest by the middle of the year, that for East Africa will not occur until towards the end of the year. It is important though to note that in terms of recovery, much depends on the quality of the next harvest and current indicators are not overly positive.

The impact of HIV/AIDS

The causes of this crisis are varied, but include adverse climatic conditions, mismanagement of grain reserves, the impact of HIV/AIDS, the aftermath of conflict, and questionable government and international community policies. The impact of HIV/AIDS, and the extremely high rates of prevalence offer perhaps the greatest single threat - high rates suggest that the impact of the food insecurity will be greater and the capacity for recovery will be reduced.

In response to this, WFP and UNAIDS have signed an agreement to increase their co-operation in responding to HIV/AIDS, citing a figure of seven million farmers who have lost their lives due to AIDS in Africa - a level of mortality that is having a dramatic impact on food production. AIDS-affected households are often hungry, farmers are too weak to plant, families do not have the capacity to produce or purchase food, forcing people to adopt survival strategies that might endanger their lives. Some migrate, often to urban slums where they lack access to education and health services; women and children are forced to barter sex for food, jobs and other basic essentials; and children leave school to find work or forage for food.

HIV/AIDS infections are increasing at alarming rates in Sub Saharan Africa. According to UN figures, in the ten years between 1990 and 2000, the annual number of new infections has more than doubled: in 1990 there were 1.6 million annual new infections, as compared to 3.7 million in 2000.

The VAC (Vulnerability Assessment Committee) report for southern Africa makes a case for the link between food insecurity and susceptibility to HIV infection, citing the statistic that in Lesotho, 20% of households identified as food insecure were sending children away, compared to only 9% of food secure households, and reported that 30% of food insecure households had experienced recent temporary migration, compared to only 18% of food secure households.

In relation to the linkage between food insecurity and susceptibility to HIV infection, the SADC Regional Food Security Assessment for December 2002 made the following observations in support of its contention that "the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa are playing a fundamental role in dismantling the economic and social structure of rural society":

  • Pressure to seek alternative income makes people vulnerable to infections: With few income earning options, women in particular can be forced into prostitution. Prostitution is particularly high in border areas and those well served by major roads. Livingstone, a Zambian district bordering Zimbabwe, has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence for Zambia (31%), 50% more than the national average.

  • HIV/AIDS depletes human capital and agricultural production: In Zambia, while 25% of rural households with chronically ill members did not harvest cereals during 2001/02, only 13% of households without chronically ill members did not harvest cereals. Further, the death of an adult (16 to 59 years) during 2002 is associated with a 16% reduction in the amount of land planted during this planting season as compared to last season.

  • Households without adults have less income: Poor households typically have a high dependence on casual labour as an income source. Loss of a productive adult member reduces such income opportunities. In Malawi, poor households without adult members received less than half as much income from casual labour as those with adults. Indicative of this loss of income source, the sale of livestock by households without adults is 67% higher than for households with adults.

  • HIV/AIDS increases expenditures on health and funerals: In Zambia, while 42% of households with chronically ill members had unusually high expenses in health care, this was the case for only 14% of households without chronically ill members. For households that had at least one member dying during 2002, 76% of them indicated that they incurred high unusual expenses in funeral costs.

  • Presence of orphans decreases food security in already stressed households: In Zimbabwe, households with orphans had 42% less income per capita than households without orphans. Female-headed households - already identified by the VAC assessments as a particularly vulnerable group - are 48% more likely than male-headed households to take in orphans. Furthermore, elderly female-headed

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