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Southern African Humanitarian Crisis Update - May 2007

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HIGHLIGHTS

Food Security Assessments: Two new reports on Zimbabwe and Swaziland from WFP/FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM) have been released, and a third on Lesotho is expected shortly. Vulnerability Assessment Committees are also collecting data in seven countries and results are expected in late June and early July. The results of these assessments will provide a more complete analysis of food security in the region.

Zimbabwe: Almost one-third of the Zimbabwean population - 4.1 million persons - may face food shortages by early next year. Recently released estimates highlight the severe impact of decreased food production and a deepening economic crisis on both rural and urban populations. Close to 450,000 tonnes of food assistance will be needed to meet national requirements.

SWAZILAND: With maize production at 60 percent below last year's average, more than 400,000 people may need food assistance to meet their basic food needs. The high incidence of HIV/AIDS will likely exacerbate the impact of decreased food availability.

LESOTHO: One of the most serious droughts in the past 30 years threatens to reduce cereal production by 30 - 40 percent.

MADAGASCAR: Humanitarian partners continue to assist vulnerable populations, particularly in the southeast, northeast, and northwest regions of the country. Assessments are underway to better understand the food security and nutritional situation.

Mozambique: Food production has varied greatly throughout the country and drought conditions in several areas, particularly the south, threaten the food security of vulnerable populations. Resettlement assistance continues in the areas most severely affected by floods and cyclone Favio.

Angola: Assistance to flood victims in the eastern part of the country continues. Humanitarian partners and national authorities continue to implement a wide-range of interventions to prevent cholera, which has afflicted more than 27,000 persons and killed close to 850 since October 2006.

Comoros: Disaster preparedness and the updating of contingency plans and coordination mechanisms remain priorities due to the threats posed by volcano Khartala and other potential natural disasters.

Zambia: Despite flooding in some areas and dry spells in others, the overall food security situation is stable. Health and nutrition concerns exist in some areas affected by floods.

Malawi: Malawi will produce bumper crops of maize and other food crops this year. Some of this surplus will be exported to neighbouring Zimbabwe and other countries to address expected wide-spread food shortages.

Namibia: Conditions in the country are mixed due to low rainfall in some areas and flooding in the Caprivi Strip in the northeast.

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

A comprehensive picture of the severity of the food security situation in southern Africa is gradually emerging and preliminary assessments signal that several countries and localised areas in others will face critical food shortages in coming months. These shortages, combined with persistent poverty and the high burden to families and communities of HIV/AIDS, threaten to put excessive pressure on already vulnerable populations. Although the hunger season typically ends in March or April, below-average crop production in the region is expected as the result of heavy and erratic rains in some areas, and lengthy dry spells and unusually hot weather in others. Cyclones and flooding have also affected crops in Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zambia. Harvest estimates for Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and parts of southern Mozambique and Zambia range from lower than average to bleak. For example, an estimated 4.1 million people in Zimbabwe may need food assistance by early 2008 due to an extremely poor harvest and a worsening economic crisis. In Swaziland, maize production is estimated at 60 percent below last year's average and crops in Lesotho have been affected by one of the worst droughts in 30 years. The overall food security situation in the region is expected to deteriorate early on in the 2007-2008 marketing year, seriously constraining households' access to food. In contrast, Malawi is expected to have a one million MT surplus after national requirements are met, and some areas in Namibia, Mozambique, and Zambia have registered normal or near normal production.

Official assessments are currently underway to determine the extent of food insecurity and the mix of targeted interventions that may be required. Three Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM) have been carried out in Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The results from Swaziland and Zimbabwe have been released and the Lesotho results are expected shortly. National Vulnerability Assessments (VAC) are underway and should be completed by the end of June/beginning of July in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia. The Zimbabwe VAC is expected to be finalized by the end of July.

The threat of widespread food insecurity in southern Africa once again highlights the region's vulnerability to natural disasters and the need to adequately analyse and prepare for national and regional worst-case scenarios. Although the availability of food affects a country's economy as a whole, the poorest households bear the greatest burden, as they must deplete family stocks, and sell household assets to purchase food at high prices in local markets. This threat also underlines the complex nature of food security and the necessary combination of both immediate relief and longer-term sustainable solutions. Agencies continue to work closely with national authorities and partners in each country to monitor the situation and to ensure that contingency plans and appropriate responses will be developed as the situation unfolds over the next months.