Angola + 9 more

Southern African Humanitarian Crisis Update - May 2006

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HIGHLIGHTS
Regional: WFP, World Vision and TNT hosted Walk the World: Fight Against Hunger on 21 May in Kyalami, Johannesburg. More than 760 000 people in 118 countries and 420 locations across 24 times zones participated.

Angola: Cholera outbreaks continue to ravage Angola. As at 24 May 2006, a total of 39,267 cumulative cases of cholera and 1,451 deaths have been registered. reported (CFR 27). Approximately half of the cases - 19,957 - were registered in Luanda

Zimbabwe: Inflation has risen to 1,043 % from 914 % eroding food security. An outbreak of cholera claimed 15 lives and infected 45 people in the northeastern town of Guruve,

Comoros: Volcanic activity was reported at Karthala Volcano on Sunday 28 May. Authorities remain vigilant and have activated the national emergency response preparedness plan. A crisis task force and ready to evacuate populations, should it be required.

Madagascar: According to early warning information over 300,000 people in the southern provinces of Vatovavy Fitovinany, Atsimo Atsinanana, Ihorombe and Androy could face food shortages over the next few months. Dry spells in the beginning of the year has reduced food security and water resources.

Lesotho: Agricultural crops look favourable for this season, although plantings were reduced by approximately 30% of fields, due to late rains and floods. Farmers are cautious of frost damage, which has been reported in Quthing, increasing the likelihood of further reductions in yield. Help is on stand-by.

Malawi: Forty-seven cases and one fatality of cholera has also been reported for the period 1 to 14 May 2006. Temporary treatment centres have been established and social mobilisation campaigns are ongoing.

Mozambique: An earthquake of a magnitude of 4.6 on the Richter scale struck Mozambique on May 15, 2006 at 13:56:13 (UTC). According to provincial authorities no damage and causalities were incurred.

Namibia: Over 100 000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in the northern rural areas are being registered for a feeding programme in response to the high levels of malnutrition in the region.

South Africa: Maize production is set to decline by an estimated 45% this season due to a marked reduction in the area planted and delayed seasonal planting across many parts of the country. This decline in production is related to the low maize price on the South African market during the previous marketing year.

AHI: RIACSO held a series of meetings to develop an Interagency Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (IEPRP).

CERF: On 23 May, an inaugural session was held in New York to welcome the Advisory Group on CERF. The 12-member group will provide periodic policy guidance and expert advice on the use and impact of the CERF to the Secretary-General. As at 30 May, the fund stood at $32m. Zimbabwe and Zambia each received $1million from this amount.

Information Management: SAHIMS and DEVINFO conducted regional capacity building training from 15 to 19 May 2006 on VAC Information Database in Johannesburg. The training aims to assist RVAC and NVAC in establishing national vulnerability data repositories that are aligned to development and humanitarian information with the MDG information management framework.

Measuring Progress: On 2 May 2006. UNICEF launched its fourth global nutrition report entitled, "Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition Findings showed an alarming third of all children in Eastern and Southern Africa are underweight and undernourished. This marks an increase in the absolute number of underweight children since 1990. Of the 17 countries analysed in Eastern / Southern Africa, only Botswana is likely to reach the MDG target - to reduce poverty and hunger by half.

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

The region is looking at an improved harvest, as a result of a favourable 2005/6 rainy season. April signalled the end of the hunger season in most of Southern Africa. Overall, food security is improving with many households accessing the new crops that have become available on rural markets.

As food aid programmes are being scaled down, concerns still exist over the situation of chronically food insecure populations as well as those affected by localised dry spells, heavy rains and flooding and crop disease. In all countries, vulnerability assessments are underway under the leadership of the National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) to ascertain the needs and numbers of vulnerable populations.

Outbreaks of cholera and acute diarrhoea are on the decline in most countries following the end of the rainy season. However, in Angola, the cholera outbreak, which started in February was estimated to have reached a critical point as of early May.

Avian and Human Influenza continues to represent a serious threat. With outbreaks of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) confirmed in Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Burkina Faso and latest in Djiboutie, the virus is now well established in the African Region. So far, Egypt is the only African country to report on human infections and deaths (5) as a result of the H5N1 virus.

Although no outbreaks have been reported yet in southern Africa, concerns exist over the risks of propagation of the disease, primarily due to uncontrolled trade of poultry from affected countries. Governments are putting contingency measures in place to be better prepared for an outbreak. However, most countries are seriously under-resourced, hampering mitigation efforts. A number challenges are of a more structural nature, such as the large attrition rates and vacancy ratios among health personnel.

Preliminary Outcomes from the Agricultural Season

Despite favourable rains in most parts of the region, average yields per hectare in most countries are low due to factors such as inferior seed, poor timing of farming operations, low and decreasing fertility, poor weed control and plant protection. Heavy rains in some countries, such as Mozambique caused some cob rotting and sprouting of maize crops, which made harvesting difficult.

Government and FAO sponsored fertilizer and seed subsidy schemes provided basic agricultural inputs to allow farmers to produce crops this year, as in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. The input schemes had a positive impact on crop diversification. As a result production of cassava and sweet potato increased in Malawi and Swaziland.

Countries likely to have a food deficit include Zimbabwe, which, due to shortages in fertilizer and problems related to land preparation and despite good rains is expected to have a shortfall. Areas in Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia have localised food shortage problems due to flooding and dry spells. While Swaziland, due to lack of planting are also faced with food insecurity.

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